Open Mics

Tom Nattell Memorial Beret Toss & Open Mic, January 28

Tossing the beret
photo by A.C. Everson

When AlbanyPoets started Poets Speak Loud! at the Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., in Albany, the first reading was scheduled for January 31, 2005, the last Monday of the month, in tribute to Tom Nattell whose legendary poetry open mic at the QE2 (a punk rock club) on Central Ave. was held on the last Monday of the month for over 11 years. Tom, who was dying of cancer at the time, was invited to be the first featured reader. He died the morning of the reading, so the open mic became an impromptou memorial service. Afterwards we marched to the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park to “toss” Tom’s beret to the head of Bobbie Burns, in what has become a yearly ritual.

Since 2011, following the fire at the Lark Tavern & the move of Poets Speak Loud! to McGeary’s, we’ve been having the beret toss prior to the reading. After a pre-toss party at the home of Carolee on Lark St., we trapesed to the statue, with a candle, flowers, sage & a green beret. We took turns tossing it to Robert Burns until Keith Spencer landed it with precision on the grand Scots poet’s arm.

Down at McGeary’s tonight we gathered for the open mic, with me, DWx, as the host. I read my short tribute poem with bell, “Theology 101” then played Tom’s performance poem, “Wounded Knee,” from the 3 Guys from Albany cassette/CD. Then on to a great cluster of poets from this community of great poets, some of whom had been on the stage of the QE2 & knew Tom, others who were much too young, but are now carrying on his work in their own way.

First up was A.C. Everson, who told the story of Tom talking into her deaf ear while a poet read on stage; her poem “I’m Looking for Where the We Are” was in the spirit of Tom, then a new work in progress, “My Country.” Then, in contrast, Carolee (almost not) Sherwood, with a poem written last Thursday, combining Winter & divorce, “Blue Sky January,” then “from someone who doesn’t write love poems” (she said) a poem about a first kiss, “Unless You Count the Tulips.” Avery‘s poem “Where Inspiration is Created” ended with an invocation of the Greek muses. R.M. Engelhardt had his own remembrances of the music & performances at the QE2, then a preachy bar poem imagining himself as an “Old Soul;” he has a new book out, The Resurrection Waltz, from which he read “St. Poem.”

New face & voice Natalie read 2 poems rich in vivid images, “Heart Strum” & the picture of a family cooking, “Diorama.” Jill Crammond recalled seeing Quincy Troupe & the AIDS quilt, both brought to Albany by Tom Nattell; she read “After My Son Returns From His Father I Learn Guns Are Not Bad” & the love poem “Outside Your Home the Machine Lifts Boulders.” Kevin Peterson read a short poem that flew by, “Bayonets” then a piece about watching TV & flipping between football & “Law & Order” (done that too). Tess Lecuyer read her funny, provocative list poem, “Prompts: Dates.” I followed with my annual birthday poem — if I live long enough may have poems enough for a chapbook someday! Sally Rhoades also remembers the QE2, specifically March 15, 1990, then read “I Wear My Wounds Gently” & another piece that sounded like notes for the other poem.

Tom Nattell, 1991

Sylvia Barnard‘s memory of Tom goes back to the Readings Against the End of the World; she read 2 poems from her new book, Trees, the anti-war piece “To Harry Patch” & a Civil War poem, “Marriage Quilt.” Leslie Michelle didn’t read her own work, but instead read “At Shakespeare & Company” from Jan Tramontano‘s book Woman Sitting in a Café and other poems of Paris (The Troy Book Makers, 2008).

Thom Francis read a poem about an occasion at work I remember only too well — at a meeting with “the divine leader,” surrounded by sycophants. Mary Panza told us she was 19 when she first went to the QE2 (heck, I was only 21), & read a re-write of her signature piece, “This is Not an Angry Poem.” Joe Krausman read 2 “shorts” as he described them, “Alice” & a funny “psychological” poem. Poetyc Vyzons slipped in at the last minute & was positive, about loving yourself & others, & about passing on our gifts to our children.

To conclude I read my elegy, “Chasing Tom,” then played the recording of Tom’s classic “Save It” & ended with his last poem:
Short or tall 
are wonderful

Other last Mondays of the month, Poets Speak Loud! continues at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany with an open mic & a featured poet — check for details.

Cheryl Rice

Caffè Lena Open Mic, January 2

The first open mic of the year was, appropriately enough, here at Caffé Lena, with 2 wonderful featured poets with Albany connections, Cheryl A. Rice & Tess Lecuyer. As a result the audience was packed with raucous poets from Albany. Our (self-described) “excited” host Carol Graser began with a reading of Adrienne Rich’s poem “In Those Years.” Then on to the open mic.

First poet up for 2013 was, appropriately enough (again), a “virgin,” Brian Dorn with a couple rhyming poems, “Darken Me,” & the love poem “Can’t Escape” (i.e., he won’t even try). Jesse Muse was back with what he described as “something else,” a depressing picture of a man in a darkening room, then with a poem he has done here before, a drugged woman reading the Iliad. Gordon Haymon is another of the North Country’s rhyming balladeers, tonight read a poem about the afterlife, “Kilmer’s Sawmill,” then a piece about a trip out West, “The Strip.” Kate McNairy‘s poems are short punches: “Numbers” (blind woman counts steps) & “Weather.” Eliza ! Oborne (that’s how she signed up) was a hit with “Toast,” a high-energy piece of enthusiasm that used short line rhymes (a la Dr. Seuss) to great effect.

Cheryl A. Rice, the Diva of the Kingston poetry scene, was a battling a cold, but managed to get through her reading just fine. Her newest poetry book, Moses Parts the Tulips: Albany Poems was available for the first time tonight from A.P.D. (Albany Poems Delight) [full disclosure: I am the publisher of A.P.D. (Alternating Poetic Device)] but most of the poems she read were not from the new chapbook. She began with a poem about a Xmas discussion with her sister, “Blessed,” then to “Frida,” an homage/prayer to the Mexican painter. Cheryl’s strong-suit in poetry is the narrative bent she gives to most of her poems, such as “Gingerbread Man,” about her stint as a substitute grade-school librarian. “Making Her Life A Poem” was her like her ars poetica/vita. She then turned to 3 poems from her 2012 chapbook from Post Traumatic Press, My Minnesota Boyhood: “Life Preservers,” “Scaling Bluefish” & “Leaving Minnesota.” She ended her set with a cluster of poems from Moses Parts the Tulips, the title poem, “Cranes” (dedicated to Tom Nattell) & “Mr. Freileigh.” By the way, the cover of Moses Parts the Tulips is a stunning painting/drawing by Albany artist & poet Kristen Day.

The second featured poet was another Albany favorite, Tess Lecuyer, who began, appropriately enough for this venue, with an old poem, “Bob Dylan on Mars,” followed by another “Martian” poem, “Ares.” Then on to a series of her Nature poems taking us through the seasons, “Dark Walking,” “Summer Sunrise,” “Autumn Equinox 2010” (like a love letter to Winter), “Anywhere” (a mall poem actually from the Winter solstice in 1993), finishing with “Sacandaga Pantoum” (celebrating a family gathering). Like Paul Krassner once said, “she gives good reading.”

The pairing of Cheryl & Tess as the features was wonderful, especially for those of us who are fans of both poets. I usually make it up to this open mic at least 6 or 8 times a year & would’ve made separate trips for both of these fine poets. If Caffé Lena is trying to pack the house by having 2 featured poets, they would do better not to pair up poets who draw the same crowd. It would be better to have a well-known local poet share the feature with some lesser-known out-of-town poet to insure that the stranger has an audience. At least that’s my 2 cents.

What was in the pinata is now on the stage.

Carol Graser returned us to the open mic (after a short break) with one of her own poems, about a collision. A.C. (“Breaking My Art“) Everson had a snowball piñata to accompany her poem “Snowball Gone Bad.” Joe DeBari followed with 2 rhyming pieces, “A Mule” & “Heaven’s Haven” (Bob Dylan?). Anthony Bernini uses rhyme in other, more complicated ways, in “Bereft” & the NYC-based “Sensible Pumps.” Sally Rhoades began with a tribute to a recently deceased cousin, “Top 10 Tips on Driving” & the childhood memory of “My Father’s Slippers.” Don Levy dedicated his poem about The Wizard of Oz, “A Friend of Dorothy’s,” to Cheryl Rice, then recounted “A Conversation in an Elevator” about Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Melissa Anderson wowed us with a stunning recitation of her advice poem “Small” that we were still talking about in the car going home. Carolee Sherwood read an older poem, “The Feeling that Winter is Near” (which was — no surprise — also a relationship poem). I followed with 2 short poems based on poems by other poets, “After Cavafy” & “After Wang Wei.”  Tim Snyder recited his amusing biker ballad, “Down at Sully’s East.”  Jill Crammond read her versions of relationship poems,  “After Attending Her First Wedding My Daughter Learns the Meaning of Fish Tale” & “Keeping House” (befriending skunks).

Julie Lomoe‘s poem “New Year Resolution 2013” was really an anti-resolution poem. Barbara Garro read a long prose piece about a bird flying through the window of a house, “Country Life,” then a piece about “Cowboy Chapels” (even cowboys get religion). Andrew Sullivan ended the night with “Our Favorite Forgotten Constellations” & then a poem about getting drunk on New Year’s (screams from the audience at the mention of the night’s Secret Word).

This poetry open mic, with featured poets, is on the first Wednesday of each month at historic Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:30 PM. Bring poems.

Sunday Four Poetry

Sunday Four Poetry, December 30

was actually Sunday Fifth Poetry, the reading moved this month to avoid the Xmas craziness. This afternoon’s featured poet was Philip Good, but first the open mic & other business (you’ll see).

First up was Alan Casline in his new cap, with a conversation of poets in the woods, “Anthology from Another Time,” then a poem about the Newtown shootings, “Cup of Sorrow.” I followed in a different vein with 2 cynical break-up poems, “Trailer Park” & “Adirondack Life.” Dennis Sullivan‘s poems were discursive, philosophical, on mortality, the big topics, “I Am the Richest of Men,” & “Only Moments Ago,” a poem for his granddaughter in response to a poem she wrote.

Mimi Moriarty & her brother Frank Desiderio read together whenever Frank is in town, going through their poems & finding pairs or “companion pieces,” as Mimi calls them. Today they were seasonal/holiday poems, beginning with Frank’s “Christmas,” then Mimi’s “First Snowfall.” Frank’s poem “Boxing Day” was about putting things away, Mimi responded with a concrete poem in the shape of a Xmas tree, “Bare Tree.” Frank’s poem “God’s Name” was theological pondering on how we human’s try to define the divine, while Mimi read her marvelous poem about putting up her creche, “Two Wisemen & a Buddha.”

Edie Abrams, who had been introducing each of our poets, was next with the poem she had promised last month, responding to a poem by Dennis Sullivan, her poem titled “Eternity (to DS, in memory of ADW),” then a redux of a poem from last year, “The White Bear 2”, on memory, again. Either Obeeduid‘s poems were untitled or I missed them in a mumble in some arcane language, like his first poem on writing & poetry & sound, with a subtitle like a software release (appropriate enough since he was reading his poems from an iPad); the other 2 poems the result of his delving into his family history, even creating some of his own history.

I was pleased to see Ron Pavoldi at an open mic again & when he got up to read he underscored how long it must have been by remarking that he had never seen someone read from an iPad (!); his first poem “Puncture Wound” was to his father, then a poem, “Then the Stars,” about a wonderful concept of rearranging the stars — I want to do that! Sue Petrie followed with a just-written poem (untitled?) reacting to the shooting in Newtown, CT, filled with bullets & history. Humor in poetry is Joe Krausman‘s stock-in-trade so it was no surprise he read a poem titled “Can God Take a Joke?” then an anti-New Year’s resolution resolution poem. Philomena Moriarty also used her iPad to read her poems, 3 meditative, discursive Buddhist poems, 2 on the theme of walking & meditating.

Before the featured poet read, Dennis Sullivan presented the 2012 Arthur Dare Willis Award to Alan Casline “for his outstanding contribution to poets & poetry.” Alan is the director of the Rootdrinker Institute & published of Benevolent Bird Press & in both roles makes the work of local poets available to the wider poetry community through chapbooks, broadsides & readings, a true poetry-activist. The annual Award is named in honor of Arthur Dare Willis (1936 – 2010), a teacher at Voorheesville High School, a poet, philosopher & mentor.

The featured poet was Philip Good, who read “a few older poems, a few newer ones” before reading a selection from his book, Untitled Writings from a Member of the Blank Generation (Trembling Pillow Press, 2011). The reference to the “Blank Generation” is to the 1970’s punk anthem, “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell. The older poems were “In the Park,” “Location” (at an art gallery/museum) & a piece on Dada from the on-going Tsatsawassa Papers. His newer poems took on a decidedly newsy, if not political, complexion: “After Super Storm Sandy,” “Parents with Guns…,” & “Shortest Day of the Year.” Then on to a selection from Untitled Writings from a Member of the Blank Generation. Philip’s poems run the gamut from perplexing randomness, to the startling clear (as in the new poems mentioned above). The numbered (hence, “untitled”) pieces from the book often sounded like cut-up or shuffled lines, many quite stunning juxtapositions & frequently ending with a humorous, aphoristic punchline (e.g., “Let us please learn something useless everyday.” #41). He even took requests from the audience (I resisted the temptation to shout out a random number).

This wonderful group gathers on the 4th Sunday (usually) of the month at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY at 3PM, with a featured poet & an open mic. Worth the trip from almost anywhere.

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 20

While the fantasy tour bus filled with dancing girls circled the block looking for a parking space, the rest of the poets gathered to hear the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, to read in the open mic, & eagerly look forward to sitting on the lap of Sanity Clause. I began by invoking the muse, Enid Dame, with her “Holiday Poem” on the eve of the Solstice.

Photo of Sanity Clause & Alan Catlin
by A.C. Everson

Eagerly first up was A.C. Everson with a rhyme about a reluctant Santa (& that was no candy cane in Sanity Clause‘s pocket).   Alan Catlin‘s poem was written in England, “End Time in the Lake District” (for tonight being on the eve of the end of the world). Avery recited his “smile poem,” “From Me to You.” Sylvia Barnard followed the smiles with a somber poem, “Autumn 2012, East Coast America” on Hurricane Sandy & the shooting in Newtown.

The featured poet was Marilyn McCabe, in the middle of a cold, started with the poem “Perseveration” from her book Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012), followed by “Psalm: It is Dark.” In fact most of the poems she read, with the exception of the last 2, came from her book, & mostly from the section titled “Problems and Affinities.” They generally dealt with what she called her “religio-curiosity” about he idea of “God,” in “Hieroglyphs,” “Within Without” (in which she speaks directly to that God), the theme often reflected in the titles: “Burning Bush,” “Lac du Saint Sacrament” (an early name for Lake George), “A Matter of Spirit and Flesh” & “Refuting Buddha” (done by the natural world). “Morning, the Flying Place” & her last poem “The Details” (which she described as “the culmination of her belief system”) were about finding prayer around her in the natural world. Despite a nagging cough at the end, she gave a wonderfully constructed, meditative reading.

After the break I read a poem about school shooting in 2006, based on a pair of newspaper articles, “Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine…” Joe Krausman read a poem for the Solstice, for light in the darkness, & partying with wine & beer. Anthony Bernini‘s poem was “a lose-end” observing a woman in “Sensible Pumps.” Alan Casline read a poem written yesterday “Cup of Sorrows.” W.D. Clarke read one of his ballads, this about his obsession with “Dollar Store Glasses.” A new poet in the house, Indie, read a love poem, “I Want to Know You.” Joanne (Jan) Farrell read a short excerpt from her historical novel, Liberty for the Lion Shield (Xulon Press, 2009). Another writer of fiction, Julie Lomoe read some haiku from walking her dog, Sirius.  Bob Elmendorf hasn’t read here in quite a while, tonight read his poem “The Photographer” looking for light in the Winter.

Photo of Sanity Clause with Sally Rhoades
by A.C. Everson

Sally Rhoades‘ poem, “High Water Mark,” was a recent one about visiting her daughter in Washington, DC.

I won’t say that this is the “longest-running” poetry series in Albany, but it has been continuous on the third Thursday of each month since December 1997, in various venues, & now at the Social Justice Center since 2006. Open mic, with a featured poet, & a $3.00 donation supports poetry programs here in Albany & supports the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany.

Thom Francis

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

I like to be on time, particularly for open mics where I plan to read, so that I can hear the other poets on the sign-up sheet. Actually Don & I were on time in Saratoga, just that Hattie’s Chicken Shack was not on time with our dinners. So we got next door to Lena’s as the first featured poet was reading, & we missed the first chunk of open mic poets — sorry.

Lynn Ciesielski has a new book out from FootHills Publishing, I Speak in Tongues & included a number of poems from the chapbook, as well as others not in the book. “How to Let Go of a Grown Child” is a Mom’s list, tender & funny. Equally tender, but sad was a poem about an octogenarian former professor, “Chaos Theory.” In “Let the Whistle Blow” the poet thought of her ashes being tossed on the train tracks to be scattered far & wide. Other poems were set in travel locations, such as the ironic feminist come-uppance of “Practicing Spanish at a Seaside Bar in Cancun,” or the less frantic “Two Legs Toward Liverpool.” She ended with the sexy & humorous love poem to her husband (dutifully tonight videoing her reading from his phone), “Pizza Again.”

AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis was the night’s other featured poet, surrounded by his adoring entourage. He said he was reading “mostly new” poems, a relative term to some of us who have heard some of these recent poems at open mics. He began with “At this Moment,” then on to the portrait of sad characters at the “Bar.” The poem “Stuck,” about Time, was written at work (haven’t we all), while “Run” examined the power of leaders, cult or otherwise. A particular favorite of mine is “Easter Visit” about a visit to his grandfather in the hospital. The one older poem was “Hero,” an ironic portrait of his father as an anti-role model. He said he has been working on “Walk” for 8 or 9 months, a sad portrait of a friend. He ended with another new favorite, a love poem to his insulin pump, “Machine.” It certainly was, as Thom described it, “the most personal reading I have ever done.”  Good too.

After the break Carol Graser read “Out of Crackers” from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems. Then on to the rest of the open mic.

W.D. Clarke was back with another of his rhymed ballads of black humor, the story of a farting corpse, “Saint Shorty.” Barbara Garro‘s poem “Blessing Bridges” was positive & up-lifting & “Wings” referenced the Sufi mystic poet Rumi. Don Levy dedicated his poem, “The Queen,” to Thom Francis, then went on to explain “How I Know My Muse is a Gay Man,” characteristic Don Levy gay & pop culture humor. I followed with 2 recent poems, the scary “This is Not Trick or Treat” & the true story of a failed Saratoga Springs love affair, “Adirondack Life.”

Tess Lecuyer, who will be one of January’s featured poets (with Kingston/Albany poet Cheryl A. Rice) read a list of a month’s worth of specific prompts for poems, “Prompt Dates.” Michael, who has read here in the past, but not recently, was back with 2 untitled poems, one remembering his father, the other perhaps about the force of desire, like walking on lava. Andrew‘s poem was a philosophical, modern dialogue appropriately titled “Said Socrates,” while his 2nd poem was shorter, but with a longer title.

The last poet up, Leslie Nestor, was a (poetry) virgin (!) but you’d never know it from her poems, the wonderfully sexy “This Shirt” & the more involved “To Our Friend Who is in Pain…” advice to a friend suffering through the pain of a lost love.

Accomplished poets, dabblers, & virgins, that’s what a poetry open mic is all about. The open mic at historic Caffè Lena is held on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 pm start, only $5.00, bring a couple poems to read.

Rebecca Schumejda

Poets Speak Loud!, November 26

Sometimes it is difficult to write about this event. Not because I don’t know what to say, but that my notes start to disintegrate towards the end, either due to the spirit, or spirits, of the night. If I leave something out, please feel free to comment with your corrections, additions, whatever. Of course, it’s just as likely that your recollection is as faulty as mine, whatever.

Mary Panza served as our host & instigator for the night. She began by announcing that our wonderful waitress here on the last Monday of the month, Allison, who is in the military & is being deployed overseas so this was her last last Monday with us. Walt Whitman said, great poets need great audiences — but we also need great waitresses: thanks Allison, & be safe.

Tess Lecuyer began the open mic with the marvelous poem she read at the Third Thursday Poetry Night, “Wild Pumpkins.”

Sylvia Barnard‘s poem “Boston Public Garden, November 2012” was written today (!), which she followed with “Russell Square, London” written in 1975.

Don Levy also gave us a tour of London with his imagining of “The Queen & I,” followed by the elegy, “Twinkies.” 

I was up next, repeating “This is Not Trick or Treat” followed by a very ancient piece, “The Pool Shark,” read for tonight’s featured poet …

… who was Rebecca Schumejda, reading from her long-awaited collection Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012), poems about a pool hall she & her husband once owned, & the characters who hung out there. She began with a poem about her daughter, “First Steps,” then on to an introduction to some of the characters, first Mikey Meatball (“Table of Truth”). Next was Spanish Fly in “Afterall This is a Bad Neighborhood,” “Wheeling & Dealing,” & ” Because a Smart Man Can Dignify a Lousy Moniker.” The eponymous “Bobby Balls-in-Hand” shows us what’s it like to be a loser. She ended with the pool-hall regular, Aristotle, in the metaphysical poem “Sober on a Snowy Day.” I’ve said it before & I say it again, buy this book, it’s like a short story collection, only shorter — & more fun.

Back to a continuing list of open mic poets with Shannon Shoemaker reading an old piece from 2010, filled with the cold moon & loneliness of lost love.

el presidente Thom Francis‘ poem “Stuck” was from a prompt, no less.

Jill Crammond, who is the prompt mama at Up the River, a Journal of Poetry, Art & Photography,  read a love poem to a fisherman, “The Last Thing This World Needs is Another Poem About Flowers,” & the villanelle, “Jude (10) Schools His Mother on Psychedelics”.

Carolee Sherwood‘s poem was from a prompt from a headline, “Salmon Swims Across Flooded Road” (to be eaten by a dog), then to another “dinner poem” (or is it romance?) “The Surprise of 2 Red Roosters.”

Kevin Peterson began by reading from his pocket notebook a short list of “things people have called me since I’ve started growing in my mustache” (of course, one doesn’t grow a mustache, one just doesn’t stop it from growing), then a poem he said wasn’t a “slam poem,” but had the heft & attitude of one, an angry put down of a sad girl on a train.

Sally Rhoades read from the 2007 High Watermark Salo[o]n journal, “The Cardinal” & the poem for her daughters, “Roosting.”

Avery returned us to the Twinkie theme with the distraught poem “Meanwhile at the Hostess Outlet,” then the descriptive piece on a flock, I mean murder, of crows.

Poetyc Vysonz ended the night with the new piece he did at the slam last week, part 2 of “Upside Down Inside Out.”

I’m sorry I couldn’t do justice to the entre poete remarks of our hostess but you just had to be there, it was fast & furious, funky & not true, or at least almost not true — you had to be there. Poets Speak Loud is at McGeary’s on Clinton Square most last Mondays (not in December), about 8PM, sponsored by

Phillip Levine

Sunday Four Poetry, November 25

Back again to this most pleasant of reading series, a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There were about 20 folks in the Old Songs Community Center for the open mic & today’s featured poet, Phillip Levine.

First up to the open mic was a peace vigil companion from Grannies for Peace, Dorothy Richards, who read a series of haiku in the Japanese style; a first-timer we were glad to welcome. Joe Krausman began with a diversion on translating, then into a poem that uses Thanksgiving travel in a grim/humorous way, then the equally quirky “Tsunami.” Dennis Sullivan, our host for the open mic, began with a poem he wrote for “E.A.”, filled with images from the Catholic version of Xtianity, including the remarkable line, “… prepare to take one in the groin for Jesus” (!), followed by a poem on forgiveness, written during storm Sandy, “I Chose Liberty.” Obeeduid began with a long introduction, about Xtian monks in ancient Ireland creating illuminated manuscripts, to the poem “My Great Hunger,” invoking the idea of the Gaelic language (or “Irish” as it is also called) being fashioned from the leftovers of the other languages of the Tower of Babel (explains a lot about why Irish is so unpronounceable).

A word-sculpture by Alan Casline

Alan Casline referred back to Native images & stories in his poem about 2 springs that spoke as books, & read a new poem, “Before the Predicted Storm,” backwards as suggested by a poet friend (it worked!). Tom Corrado presented a word-play dialogue, with his characteristic puns, “The Nuanced Perceptions Survivor in Nine and a Half Acts.” Edie Abrams explained that she has written 2 poems in response to poems by Dennis Sullivan, that her poem to the one he just read she will read in December, then read her response to his frequent use of “hoi polloi” by declaring us/we not philosopher kings.

Arlen Westbrook was back again, this time with an anti-war poem from written during the 1960s, “All Fall Down.” I followed with a recent poem that considers my less-than-compassionate reaction to others, “Shredded Pants,” then my response to the prompt to write a scary poem, “This is Not Trick or Treat.” Mimi Moriarty read her recent poem “Learning Vietnamese,” a tender picture of music & sharing among women who share much without the common language to explain it all, a marvelous piece. Howard Kogan read what he called “2 vaguely theological poems,” the first from a workshop with Bernadette Mayer, a poem from the point of view of a firefly, then a stunning poem about looking for god, “Blue Heron.”

Rick Harrienger was also back (as “Sir Charles” so as not to be confused with “charlie”) with poems in ballad rhymes, “The Warrior’s Song” (from his experiences in Viet Nam) & a holiday theme poem, “Reflections in a Fire,” or, as he proclaimed, “so what if I make it rhyme.” Philomena Moriarty read a duo of disaster poems, “Corpses” (for the victims of Hurricane Katrina) & “Fukashima 50.”  Ann Lapinski rounded out the open mic with the more gentle “The Magnolia.”

Phillip Levine is one of those activist poets who not only writes poems but makes things happen in the poetry community, running a weekly series for a long time at the Colonie Cafe in Woodstock, the ongoing monthly Woodstock Poetry Society reading series, another monthly series in Kingston & serving as the poetry editor of the regional magazine, Chronogram. He read from a wide-spectrum of his poems, including 2 influenced by the work of James Joyce, “Soon” (inspired by Ulysses) & “Hooked” (in the style of Finnegan’s Wake), also “Small Things” from a recent profile in Ulster magazine. Sometimes his intros became long diversions that filled up his time & got in the way of the poems, but he managed to squeeze in a series of pieces on writing, “The Clown at the Chalkboard,” “Poet on Point” & the related “A Riderless Horse.” His poem “Colors” was for a woman who at the time was threatening suicide. He ended with his familiar card-trick/aphoristic poems, short pieces written on playing cards, shuffled & chosen at random.

This series continues on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center up in Voorhessville, NY, a modest donation — & a trip after up the road to Smith’s Tavern for pizza or sandwiches & beer, or whatever. How else do you want to spend your Sunday afternoon?