Welcome back to Thom’s 10 Things. I took last week off so that I could give all of my attention to the Albany Word Fest. This weeks post is all about that event, which was a great week of great events with great poets supporting our great community.
Here we go…
1 – Founders Reading
The Founders Reading was, for me anyway, the highlight of the Word Fest week. We were able to look back at where we came from over 10 years ago and thank those poets who paved the way. It was great fun to talk about old times and catch up with some folks that I have not seen in a while (Marcus). It was also nice to co-host the event with the man who started the whole thing, R.M. Engelhardt. We will have to do it again in another ten years. I can only imagine what the scene will be like then.
2 – St. Poem
I did not make it to the St. Poem reading / tribute to E.E. Cummings this time around. I was not feeling very well Monday and did not want to stray too fat away from my house. But, from what I heard from Mary and pinch-host Dan Wilcox, it was a great night with at least one new poet making it out for the first time. This seems to be a continuing theme with the St. Poem series as Rob has gotten a few young, new poets coming out in the past couple of months. It is great to see younger poets coming out and sharing their work at the open mics. I remember when I was 16 years old or so when I came out ot my first open mic and it was a great feeling, albeit stressful, getting up to the mic the first time. The new poet Jay Toraty has since come out and been a part of most of the Word Fest week events.
3 – NGS #16
Right in the middle of Word Fest week we held the 16th edition of the Nitty Gritty Slam. I can’t beleive that it has been eight months since we started this incarnation of a poetry slam in Albany. It has had its ups and downs so far, but overall I would call NGS a success. This time around we had the slam team from SUNY New Paltz joining us and they really brought their “A” game and raised the bar for how to do it on stage. It was great to see some new faces too at the slam who heard about it from our friends at WEXT. At the end of the night we had a little confusion on how to handle a tie, but once the dust cleared everyone went their separate ways with smiles on their faces. I am very anxious to see who comes back to be a part of future slams, especially in the summer when school is out.
4 – Yes! Communal Reading
Wedensday brought us the Yes Word Fest Communal Experiment. No one really knew what to expect when Matthew Klane was setting this up and asking people to signup. When I read the email that said “All participants will read for exactly 1 minute, so bring 1 minute of poetry to read. Each reading will flow continuously from the previous and into the next, without introduction or frame. When it’s your turn, you just stand up and read!”, I had no idea how this event was going to work.
When we got there and sat down, it was still a bit of a mystery, but we began to read our 1 minute poems, around the room we went. Matthew explained that they were filming the whole reading with multiple cameras and that this was only part of the bigger idea.
At the end of the night, less than an hour after we started, it all made sense and I can’t wait to see the finished video project that we were all a part of.
5 – Third Thursday Poetry Night Featuring Christopher The Poet
Dan usually has featured poets who are just starting out and have not had a featured spot in the past. Dan himself did not have his first feature until he was 40. The Third Thursday is a great venue to be a feature, espeically if it is your first time in that position. That reading in particular has always had the right vibe to it. It is hard to explain, but when you are at the mic and look out at the crowd, you are comfortable. I have had the honor to be featured at that mic three times, but the first time is what I hold closest to me. When Dan asked me to first feature it was when I was just starting out in the area poetry scene and when Dan was hosting the event at C@fe Web (which is now Tierra Coffee Roasters on Madison Ave.).
Not sure where I was going with that story. Anyway, Dan also sometimes brings in features from out of town to shake things up a bit. This month’s featured was suggested by Mojavi and what a fantastic pick it was. Christopher The Poet was the best pick for the Word Fest edition of the Third Thursday series. His poems were all dynamic, thought provoking pieces that spoke to being human and conflicted. His poems all came from the heart and were performed in a way that anyone could relate and put themselves in the shoes of the chartacters.
Luckily for Albany he also performed the next night at UGT. Unfortunately for me, I missed his set on Friday night at The Linda.
6 – Word Fest Open Mic
One of the traditons of the Word Fest is the open mic portion of the event. When we started the Word Fest in 2001, it was essentially an all day open mic in Thatcher Park. Every year since, even with changes and additions to the Word Fest, we still have the open mic. We have done it over two days (2006), done two Friday night until Saturday morning 12-hour sessions (2009, 2010), and even tried to do 12 hours in one day last year. This year we decided to make the open mic a little simpler by having it at the Albany Public Library from 10:30 – 5:00. This was largely due to the fact that there were at least three other open mics happening during Word Fest week.
The great thing about the Word Fest Open Mic every single year is the fact that we always get to see and hear new poets. This year was no different with a lot of new poets signing up on the website and even some folks just walking in on Saturday, ready to share their work. I always like seeing the signup list online and counting the new names on there. It was great to see and hear so many poets, new and returning, step up to the mic and share their work. All together 38 poets came out to the library on Saturday to read their poetry. Some only read one piece, some read a full-on set. But, at the end of the day, we were a community supporting each other, clapping our hands and appreciating the art.
7 – Karaoke + Poetry = Fun!
This was the best way that I could think of to end a week of poetry. Dan Wilcox and I were talking towards the end of the night and just knew that there was no other way to do it. Daniel Nester is an absolute genius. I am very happy that from his mind sprang such an awesome idea for an event. Part open mic, part karaoke jam. This was a party. Plain and simple. We were hanging out, having some drinks, and being together as a family of misfits reading poetry to each other and singing really, really terribly.
8 – Thank you…
The Word Fest could not have happened without the hard work and support of our community. Without Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox, Mojavi, Daniel Nester, Matthew Klane, Tiffany Burnett, R.M. Engelhardt, and Dain Brammage, the dream of a week long Word Fest would have become a reality. Thanks to McGeary’s, UAG, Valentine’s, The Social Justice Center, and the Albany Public Library for allowing and encouraging poetry in their venues. A huge thank you to WEXT for giving us both online and on air plugs leading up to the Word Fest. And, one final thank you to all of the poets, audience members, families, and friends who continue to support the local poetry community through their very generous donations.
I couldn’t have done anything of this without all of you.
9 – Video of the Week
Last week in my office Mojavi and I were talking about all of the things that we do at poetry events and that it is difficult to be taking pictures, video recording a performace, and, of course, paying attention all at the same time. He kept saying that I need to get more videos on the site, yadda, yadda, yadda. So, I happened to have my video camera with me on Thursday and recorded his turn at the mic at the Social Justice Center.
[By the way, I will have videos from the Word Fest Open Mic posted this week. Stay tuned.]
10 – Coming up…
Next week we have back to back Albany Poets events with Poets Speak Loud happening on Monday night at McGeary’s with featured poet Elizag. Then on Tuesday night we head back to Valentine’s for Nitty Gritty Slam #17. Be sure to check the events listings for everything that is going on next week and beyond.
So, what did you think of the 2012 Albany Word Fest? Let me know in the comments.