The 2012 edition of Albany WordFest is a week-long heart attack of events, starting with this night’s reading by Albany poets who were there at the beginning: Thom Francis, R.M. Engelhardt, Mary Panza, Don Levy, Marcus Anderson, A.C. Everson, Mojavi, & me. In the past WordFest has been, among other things, an afternoon event in Thatcher Park, a weekend at Valentines, 12-hours over-night at the UAG, & 12-hours daytime at the Linda. This year a number of existing & special events have been strung together to create a week of WordFest. Check it out at AlbanyPoets.com.
We were in the back room of McGeary’s where Poets Speak Loud! every last Monday of the month. The room eventually filled with poets & poet-gawkers & gawker-poets, et cetera.
I was first up with a reading inspired by the now-gone poet Catherine Connolly who left us way too soon last week. I began with one of Catherine’s poems from the just-published chapbook, Orion’s Belt: Poems (Poet’s Corner Press, 2012), then to a new poem of mine, just written, “Something That Matters,”inspired by a conversation at Catherine’s wake. A poem for Albany poet Moses Kash III, then “Good Friday Art Walk,” the fragment “April Rain,” “Coyote 4,” & “At the End.”
Mojavi began by recounting the history of the scene in Albany, from a Black perspective, from his perspective. His poems included the funny weed-inspired vision of the apocalypse, then on into a tender love poem, followed by (of course) a couple poems on the end of a relationship, then ending with a poem he said was inspired by me as a “poet cliché” (black clothes, wear a beret [but of course!]) about being a poet, with the marvelous phrase that he is “poem dependent.”
Thom & Rob had been sharing the MC/hosting duties & as Rob introduced Marcus Anderson he gave some historical background on the open mic Rob used to run at Lionheart’s (when it was where the upstairs of Bomber’s is today). Marcus’ poetry has always been rich in imagery with leanings towards hip-hop lines & rhymes, but delivered with quiet calm, letting the words take over. He began with a poem titled “Run On,” then the Coltrane-inspired “Saxophone Love Jones,” “Cornered” (from the Bush administration), & ended with a poem with a more positive view of life & the message that life is to be lived.
Before she got to her piñata, A.C. Everson read a selection of her poems from various points in her life, the very early “Mr. Wrong Guy,” then the Memphis-based “Jesus on the Scene,” “Soap Box & My 2 Cents,” “Prattle Rhyme,” & “Some Drunks.” Also known as “Breaking My Art” & the Piñata Queen, Annine’s offering tonight was a towering sun-flower/sun with shades, filled with small paper suns each containing a magnet of various designs (mine a candy-sucker ring), tossed with great glee into the audience, after she read, with audience help, “Under the Sun.”
Don Levy is certainly a Founder of delight. Many of the poems he read tonight can be found on his FaceBook page. “Swanson’s TV Dinners & the Merv” is touching poem describing his childhood dinners literally in front of the TV, while “Newsprint” is a tender tribute to his father, who worked nights as a newspaper sports editor. Don confronted gay bashing by a popular actor with “Growing Pain in the Ass,” & struggled with dietary advice in “Shit My Nutritionist Says.” He ended with a tribute, “The Annual Tom Nattell Beret Toss.”
Of course, Mary Panza is one poet who can follow Don on a program without skipping a beat. Not only do her poems frequently contain snarky remarks & put-downs of phonies, but her banter in between the poems kept it going, directed at select members of the audience (me included). She began lusting after a waiter in the poem “The Treacherous End,” then a handyman in “Roofing & the Art of the Kiss.” The poem “Because of You I Believe in Housewife Tuesday” was dedicated to the actor Peter Falk, while you can guess the target of “Tattooed Crowded Day Care.” She ended with 2 marvelous poems celebrating herself & the grand Sisterhood of family, “In a Post-Partum World” & “And the Women Cooked.”
The last 2 poets of the night were our tag-team hosts. Thom Francis read what might be described as some of his “greatest hits,” beginning with “Jesus Walks on the Water” (a Troy street character), the self-affirming “December 4,”& the thoughts on being the odd guy in the office, “Cast.” The poem “Bar Hoper” is a sketch of someone at Valentines one night, while “Father Figure” is about his step-father, & “Hero” begins with his father but moves on to the real heroes. “Radioman” is a favored piece he does with Keith Spencer (as the duo “Murrow”). “American” is a critical look at military recruiters. He ended with Keith’s favorite poem (& many other’s I surmise, based on folks joining in) “Female Pedestrian.”
R.M. Engelhardt was the poet responsible for first creating AlbanyPoets, then with coming up with the idea for Albany WordFest, an idea a myriad of poets have been carrying out since 2001. He began by reading his classic poem “Alchemy,” then the poem titled “Et Cetera.” A new poem, “Silence Falls,” was followed by another classic, “The Day God Became Popular,” with the deity as a CEO of a corporation running the world. He ended with a poem influenced by e.e. cummings (to whom tomorrow’s Saint Poem reading will be paying tribute), “Underdog.”
A great start to the 2012 WordFest by looking back & by readings from (some of) those of us who were there at the beginning. Now on to the rest of the week.