Thom Francis

Thom’s 10 Things…

Thom Francis

I am back with another edition of Thom’s 10 Things… on a gray day in crime-free downtown Albany. Here is what I have been thinking about this week (in no particular order).

1 – Poetry Out Loud
I had the opportunity to sit on the judges panel this past Saturday for the state finals of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest. Lat week I talked about how important I think it is to get the younger generation invloved in the arts and poetry in particular. It was quite an honor to be sitting on a panel with such a distinguished group of people including Bertha Rogers from the Bright Hill Literary Center, local poet Stuart Bartow, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education Jeffrey Cannell, the 2011 NYS Poetry Out Loud winner Steven Tsai, and the great singer, songwriter, and author Natalie Merchant. But, as great as it was to be “rubbing elbows” with the celebrity at the judges table, it was even better to be able to talk about what Albany Poets does and what we are working on in regards to youth workshops, the Word Fest, and a few other projects that we have in the hopper. I was able to make some new partnerships with a local library, started planting the seeds for 2013 Word Fest venues, and even set up a reading for next year downstate. It was nice to see that even though Thom Francis is not a household name like Natalie Merchant, the work that me and the Albany Poets team have been doing all this time is noticed and appreciated.

2 – Where are the Slammers?
Over the past few months at the Nitty Gritty Slam I have been taking notice that there are quite a few slammers, especially slam winners, who have not come back. Where are you? Why have you not come back to defend your title? I do realize that people have other responsibilities in life; school, work, family. I get it. I wholeheartedly understand and respect that. But, if I were to win a contest, a poetry slam in this case, I would want to come out again to prove my dominance and cement my place in the history of the event. Maybe I am thinking about it too much. Maybe not. I just want to see the best slam poets competing together, ready to take on all comers in bigger contests and slams. Elizag has already started to branch out and compete on the national level. So, slammers, where are you? We are at Valentine’s every first and third Tuesday. Let’s get re-acquainted.

3 – Didn’t I Hear You Read?
Over the weekend I posted tracks from the CD that we put out in 2005, Didn’t I Hear You Read?. I had not listened that disc in a couple of years and it was nice to sit back and enjoy the finished project. Leo did an amazing job creating the music to go with the poets words. It all meshed together in a way that bring the poem off of the page and into a whole new level.

4 – Only a Couple of Weeks Until Word Fest
We are in the home stretch to Word Fest. In a little over two weeks we will be kicking off our biggest Word Fest to date. An entire week of events all to celebrate the poets and poetry in the area. Yesterday I posted about the 2006 Word Fest, which at the time was the biggest with two open mics and three venues

5 – Poetry on the Radio
Right in the middle of Word Fest week, on Wednesday, April 18, there will be poetry on the radio. WAMC is the public radio station in our area (if you are reading this, you can probably tune into WAMC) and every couple of months, as part of the Vox Pop call-in show, they have a Poetry Forum with local poets in the studio. They also take calls from listeners to read the work of  “published” poets. I love the fact that WAMC is allowing poetry on the air, but the problem lays in the fact that the poets that are read have to “published”. With that, you are leaving out a big population of LOCAL poets. And what is the definition of “published”? In my mind, if the work is on or another website, that counts. So, I am encouraging everyone to call up, read one of your “published” poems, promote the Word Fest or any other open mics and readings that are happening, and let people know that we have a great poetry community here in upstate New York.

6 – National Poetry Month
Like it or not, National Poetry Month begins on Sunday. According to the Academy of American Poets, NPM, which started in 1996, “is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.”

You know that we are doing our part with the Word Fest in a couple of weeks, the weekly Saturday readings in Saratoga, and we just posted about a poetry writing challenge that our friends over at the Word X Word Festival in Pittsfield are holding.

Some folks may find the idea of dedicating an entire month to poetry, or even dedicating a month to anything, as hokey, but in reality it is a nice way to bring awareness to the art and to the people who create and host events through out the year. I do agree with Dan Wilcox though when he says, “In Albany, every day is poetry month.”

7 – But, It’s Still March
I am just saying this because of the weather over the past couple of weeks and the fact the some folks are complaining with how things are this week. In the office that I work in, like most offices I’m sure, the talk has been how beautiful the weather has been and how it has dropped off in the past couple of days. It was in the 70s and 80s last week. What a wonderful time to be alive. Now this week is a whole different matter with the high (so far) today being a “tropic” 45 degrees.  According to people much smarter than me, the average high temperature in March is 43.5, so we are right on target. Last week was a special gift. This winter was non-existent. Let’s be grateful that the sun still rises every morning and stop whining about having to put on a sweatshirt in MARCH.

8 – Small Press
As I have been going through all of the old photos form previous Word Fest events I have noticed that when we started in 2001 we promoted the event as a small press gathering. We continued that idea for the first couple of years and then brought it back for 2006. We have done a small press fair at the event since. In planning every year, we have always have it on our lists of what we want to include, but for some reason it never makes it on the schedule. The folks at Fence held a small press fair and reading a couple of years ago at the UAG and it was a great success. The Metroland even picked up on it and published an article about that and the scene as a whole. What I want to know is, would you go to a small press fair if we put one together? Who are some of the presses you would like to see there?

9 – Video of the Week
This week’s video stems from my last post when I talked about my love of wrestling and I shared a couple of videos from ILLiptical where he talks about wrestling in his poems. This week we turn it around with a wrestler reading poetry at a wrestling pay-per-view.

In honor of WrestleMania this coming Sunday, I present The Genius reading a poem at Summer Slam 1989

9a – My Serious Video of the Week
For my pick for serious video I wanted to share the work of local poet / producer Kat SoPoetic. She has been recently very active with Urban Guerilla Theatre and came out to a couple of Nitty Gritty Slams and performed. Here is Kat performing at UGT’s HERStory event a couple of weeks ago at The Linda.

10 – Coming up Next Week
Next week will be the first week of National Poetry Month and here are a couple great events going on that are a perfect way to get April going. We have Nitty Gritty Slam #15 happening at Valentine’s on Tuesday and on Wednesday, up in beautiful Saratoga, the Caffe Lena’s Poetry Open Mic is featuring the WomenWords Collective.

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