Mary Panza

Poets Speak Loud!, February 27

It has taken a while but I’m losing my nostalgia for the Lark Tavern, the grieving process is coming to an end, with the success & vibrancy of this series at McGeary’s. Perhaps it is the cozy back room where poets listen to poets, where the shocked dinner patrons can eat in peace & enjoy their conversation out in the main dining area. Or it is simply that the good & snarky energy of this venue has taken root here, as it had at Tess’ Lark Tavern.

Our host, Mary Panza, started us off with a poem, which she rarely, if ever, does this in memory of her mother, a paean to skills that matter, “And the Women Cooked.” Sheldon Carnes made a rare appearance (with his Apache drum flute) to do a poem in the persona of a dog(?) crossing the road. Carolee Sherwood did a couple of breakup poems, an old one about a made-for-TV autopsy, & the new poem playing on the word “murder,” “Crows on the First Cold Night of February.”

Tess Lecuyer started with an old Spring Equinox poem (jumping the gun a little), then another old poem titled “Strays.” Ed Rinaldi is working at a-poem-a-day & read one about the reasons he writes poetry, then another, “To Know What’s For Dessert.” We all sang “Happy Birthday” to Cheryl Rice who read a couple of horse poems, “Horseshoe” (hanging over her kitchen door), & the nostalgic, family memoir, picture-poem “Water Trough Bench.”

Tenesha Smith was the featured poet, whom I’ve only heard at open mics so it was good to hear a big chunk of her work, including some I’ve heard before. She began with a piece of flash-fiction, a childhood memoir about her grandmother, “Ripening on the Vine,” then on to poems with “Trail of Change.” She said her favorite poem of hers (& one I’ve heard her do before) is “Pussy,” a testament to what she (all women) are more than. There was also a chilling poem about the NYC shooting of groom-to-be Sean Bell, “Almost a Widow.” In “Spider on the Ceiling” a spider in the shower shows her her own strength in surviving, & in “Terrible Stories: Why I Beat My Kids” she talked about passing that strength down to her children. Tenesha performs her poems well without theatrics, but with the strength of her words & of herself.

Shannon Shoemaker began with a poem titled “Valentines Day,” then brought the house down (& started a continuing conversation) with the poem she performed so well at the last Nitty Gritty Slam, the strap-on/whip-it-out poem inspired by my old piece, “To My Penis.”  I followed (as well as I could) next with a total change of pace, last year’s “Winter Light” & “Not Yet Spring.” Sylvia Barnard dug out an old broadside put out by the University at Albany English Department in 2005, & read her poem from it “January 2004,” then my poem (!) from the broadside, “Reading Bei Dao at the Great Wall.”

Avery did, in his effusive style, 2 long pieces with long titles, the first a riff on the Muppet rainbow song & other borrowed ideas, “On the Magnetism & the Oscillating Personal Relationship …” then a slam-like word flow read fast, “My Spoken Word, Can You Her What I Am Saying?” Mojavi also had a piece with a long title, “So What … & the Letter Beef,” about the “poetry wars”, then into the more pleasant topic of a love poem.

Leslie Michelle brought us some humor & word play telling us she is “Sick of Twitter.” I think Dain Brammage is either stuck in 3rd grade, or looking to repeat it, reading us 2 recently written cinquains. Poetyc Visionz ended the night (or, as Mary said, “bring us out of this…”) with a piece from his CD Poetyc Visionz Presents L.I.F.E. – The Meaning, complete with backup singers.

There are lots of reasons to come to this open mic on the last Monday of most months at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, in Albany, NY: good food, friendly staff, an attentive (if rambunctious) audience & great poetry (that is, if you show up).