Thom Francis

Thom’s 10 Things… April 4, 2012

Thom Francis

Welcome back to Thom’s 10 Things. This week I’ll be taking a look at the local poetry scene and asking some questions that I would like some answers to. Here we go…

1 – Thoughts and Memories
A couple of months ago, before we held the annual Tom Nattell Memorial Reading and Beret Toss, I sent out an email to many of the local poets who have been around the scsne for a while for there thoughts about Tom Nattell as the poet, host, and friend that he was to us all. Recently I have been thinking more and more about our upstate poetry community and how things have changed and how great it is to see the some of the same faces each month at the open mics in the area. I am working on a retrospective project to document what we as poets and spoken word artists do and have done all these years. If you have any memories on the upstate poetry community, please send them along. We want as many voices as possible for this.

2 – Open Mics: Too Many or Not Enough
This is a question that I ask almost every year. Do we have too many open mics in the area or not enough. When I first started coming out to read at open mics 18 years ago, there were only a couple mics to choose from. Mary Panza hosted at Borders, R.M. Engelhardt had Stefanucci’s, Joe Hollander hosted at Mother Earth’s Cafe, and of course Tom Nattell was holding it down at the QE2.  There were only a handful of open mics to choose from each month. It was a destination. It was what you did on the “____ day of the month”. Over the years though, as the community got bigger and folks moved out of the confines of the city limits, open mics started popping up all over the place. Dan Wilcox started his Third Thursday reading, Mojavi at Soul Kitchen, Don Levy started a few open mics, and Carol Graser teamed up with Caffe Lena. Now, if you look at our calendar, there are multiple events happening each night in the area. One of the trends that I have been seeing is that participation and audience has been spread out over all of the events and it leaves a few readings on life support. What do you think? Do we have too many? Not enough?

3 – Poetry in Everyday Life
I was talking to Jack McEneny (yes, that Jack McEneny) last month at a storytelling evening and he was telling me about when he was a kid, before television adn the rest of the distractions that we enjoy today, he and hsi family would sit by the fire after supper and take turns reading and reciting poetry to each other. I have heard similar stories to this from family members and friends over the years. I can remember watching TV a few years ago and watching a Levi’s commercial where they quoted Walt Whitman. There was a special MTV Unplugged (remember that show?)that was all spoken word performers. There is a new movie based on Edgar Allan Poe coming out very soon. Will the arts, particularly poetry ever be prevalent in everyday life again? Were you brought up with poetry in as a part of your life? Are you bring up your children in the arts?

4 – Nitty Gritty Slam
Last night we held our 16th installment of NGS at Valentine’s. What a great series that we have here in Albany and I only wish that more people would come out and be a part of it. We have an open mic to start the show, if you want to get up on the mic, and then we go on to the slam that consistently showcases some of the best poetry and spoken word that I have ever been witness to. I am not saying that because I am one of the people running the show, I am saying that because it is true. So, if you want to be inspired and have a good time for only a $5.oo admission price, come one out to Valentine’s on Tuesday, April 17 for Nitty Gritty Slam #17.

5 – Professor Java’s Wide Open Mic
Speaking of open mics. We are still gathering at Professor Java’s every second Monday of the month. Kevin Peterson is the new host of the series adn is going a great job so far at the helm. There are a lot of places for poets and musicians to get together like the Hudson River Coffee House on Thursdays and Pauly’s on Wednesday’s. But, what better way to start off the week than poetry, music, and coffee at Java’s?

6 – Getting the Word Out
I am looking for help. Over the years you have seen the flyers and posters that I make promoting upcoming events and open mics. Well, now I need help distributing those flyers to let people know about what we are doing and have coming up. We are in the process of getting all of our printing done, so if you have some time on your hands and would like to help out by dropping off information at local coffeehouses, bulletin boards, and the like, please send me an email at

7 – Under Two Weeks Until Word Fest
This is a repeat from last week, but it is important that as many people as possible know about and are excited for our big, annual event. We are on the road to Word Fest. In under 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. If you have been watching the site, you will see that I have been posting about the past Word Fests and I will continue that tomorrow with the 2008 event.

8 – Poetry Prompts and National Poetry Month
With the beginning of National Poetry Month we also start seeing Poem A Day challenges. This year we told you about the Word X Word Festival in Pittsfield holding their annual challenge and, of course, there is the NaPoWriMo, one of the biggest of the challenges over the years. The concept is simple, they give you a prompt, a jumping off point and you write a poem. Some poets love these, some don’t, but either way it gets folks writing. We have went ahead and started posting some daily poems from Ed Rinaldi, Carolee Sherwood, and Jason Crane. Are you writing a poem everyday for National Poetry Month? Want to post those poems on the Albany Poets website? Send them to and they will be available for the world to read.

9 – Video of the Week
This week I am not going to go into my love of pro wrestling again and post a video about that. Since I mentioned the Poe movie, The Raven, earlier I thought it would make sense to post the trailer of what looks like a great film. And, with John Cusack in it, you know that there will be rain.

“In this gritty thriller, Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack, Being John Malkovich) joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans, Immortals) to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis in a string of brutal murders.”

9a – I Was Kidding…
Here is the return of Brock Lesnar from this past Monday.

10 – Coming up Next Week
Next week we continue National Poetry Month at Professor Java’s Wide Open Mic with host Kevin Peterson on Monday, The Writers Open Mic held at Pine Hollow Arboretum is beginning the 2012 Season with poet Phil Good as the feature on Friday, April 13, and the Woodstock Poetry Society meets at the Colony Cafe on Saturday, April 14. We are also started our From The Page to The Stage workshop series with The Barn on Friday the 13th.

Have a great holiday weekend, whichever one you happen to celebrate. See you next week. Go Sox!