Alex Sherman-Cross

Albany Word Fest — Episode 4, April 17

In past years when Word Fest took place over a weekend, the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center was often “the official unofficial start of Word Fest.” This year with the series a full week of readings this regular monthly poetry event was fully official. The Center was packed, standing-room-only, for Pro. Daniel Nester’s class as the featured poet(s), going by the handle “Josie and the Dropboxers.” It’s not what you think, the students apparently use the internet service Dropbox to post their assignments.

Since it was Holy Thursday I selected as our Muse William Blake & read his 2 poems titled “Holy Thursday.” Then on to the open mic with Alan Catlin up first, from his Selected Poems, “What We Talk About When We talk About Love” based on a Raymond Carver story. Philomena decided to “be really risky,” reading a revealing poem “Being Fat is Like…” Bob Sharkey read an excerpt from a longer piece — making a movie, tankers hauling crude.
New voice, David Weeks, made it over from Troy for the 1st time, & read a poem written for both of his sons, “The Beauty of Fatherhood.” Emily Gonzalez’s poem was “Unnoticed, for Sebastian” for Sebastian Barr’s photos about abandoned buildings.

David Weeks

Tonight’s feature poet was a cluster of poets from Daniel Nester’s class at the College of St. Rose in Poetry & Performance, going in 3 sets. Note: see my Flickr! site for photos of all of the poets.

Jenna VanWely

Set One:
Caryleanna Guyatte’s poem was “Annoying” about her “so-called” boyfriend. Katie Cummings read a flarf poem based on Google search results for “Wanda,” “Victor,” “strawberry,” & “beef.” Danielle Viaña read a sestina way too fast which was part of the word-salad fun. Robert Reyes couldn’t be more different, his poem wondering “When Can I Relax?” Jenna VanWely’s piece was a list poem self-portrait “I Am.”

Conor White

Set Two:
Christina Bourne had her hoola-hoop with her for her reading of “The Hoola-Hoop Sestina” then demonstrated some moves. Rachel Brandenberg wrote a love poem to her younger sister, full of humor & tenderness. Ty Versocki works at a bookstore & her poem “Behind the Book-Seller” was composed of things she heard in the store over a number of days. Conor White revealed his sordid “Ricey Secret” in a humorous, self-effacing poem. Kyle Simcik read “Rap 101.” Shawn Berman likes playing around, plays a lot of video games & knows how to fight, he said, among other random things in his poem.

Marlee Christine

Set Three:
Rachel Gagnon’s nightmare poem was titled “Athena Out of Darkness” intensely read. Marlee Christine read a sestina about love, “My Bug-a-boo,” a favorite form it seems of this group. Nancy Wall read a serious auto-biographical list poem “I Remember.” Stephanie Clowe also read a flarf poem, full of randomness. Krissi Harrington’s poem — & perhaps her too — was “Proud to be a Bitch,” a feminist manifesto.

I suspect that many of these poets did not consider themselves “Poets” when they signed up for Nester’s course, but after tonight they all should know they are Poets.

After a break I read my poem for the season “What Passover Has Taught Me.” Then Isaiah Agojo, who is also a student at the College of St. Rose & in recent months has been video-taping readings & interviews with local poets read a long, intense poem about himself that eventually became about rape & child molestation. Metroland announced last week that according to its Readers’ Poll Brian Dorn was the Best Poet, & in honor of WordFest read “Words.” Joe Krausman, at least in my opinion, is one of Albany’s Best Poets, read an eco-/sex poem “Pandering to Pandas at the National Zoo.”

Alex Sherman-Cross

Alex Sherman-Cross, a former-feature, read what she said was “a little bit of a rough poem,” about missing his dick & his kiss. Miss S., also known as Jessica, read a short, 2-part poem, about freedom from a relationship. Another new voice, Angel Perez, did a poem from memory, a prayer for protection. Kevin Peterson read a poem to his grandmother who passed away recently, a poem of love & humor & vodka & angels. The last poet of the night, Brooklyn Collins, was still another new voice with a great name & an untitled poem about her trust issues, a brave little piece.

WordFest or not, this reading & open mic takes place on the third Thursday of each month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30 PM, $3.00 (more or less) donation — a featured poet & an open mic for community poets (1 poem!).

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