They packed the house tonight at the Social Justice Center for the second standing-room-only event of WordFest. Of course it helped that there were 18 featured poets, students from the Poetry in Performance class at the College of St. Rose. But there were also 17 poets signed up for the open mic, loyal regulars, some returning poets & even a couple new faces/voices.

But first the invocation of the Muse, or rather, for tonight, Muses — for the season I recited “in Just Spring…” by e.e. cummings, then for his birthday today, “Believe, Believe” by Bob Kaufman. On to the open mic.

First poet up was Alan Catlin with a poem about working the Washington Tavern on September 11, 2001 like being in hell. Bob Sharkey‘s poem was “Monday Evening,” about a class on Chinese. Avery returned to his childhood when “I Found a Sword Today.” I got the title wrong in a previous post for Sylvia Barnard‘s poem, the correct title is “Blues for Smoke.”  Don Levy reprised his hilarious take on the NRA, “Wayne’s World.” Arielle Gumson was back yet again tonight with a poem she wrote yesterday, longing for her boyfriend. Bob Gumson was also back, his poem on confronting a blank page in the morning, on belief & faith.

For a few years now the featured poet(s) in April have been students in the Daniel Nester‘s class at St. Rose, the class now titled sensibly enough “Poetry in Performance.” This year there were 18 students divided into 4 teams, each reading individual poems. I usually post on this Blog photos of the featured poet, but since there were so many you can find the photos of the individual poets here on my flickr site.

First up was “Team Tall,” which it pretty much was. Emily Felter read “Papi’s Poem,” a sad memory. Kristen Mennella read a lost love poem “For Anyone Who Has Lost a Lighter.” John Slater sneaked in “A Letter to my Father” a very short poem, then “2 Truths One Lie.” Kaitlin Clark said she was “not really a member of team tall,” read “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry for Asking for Help” (“…& do fucking load of laundry”). Amelia Renaud‘s poem “Ontario Street” was about trying to sleep in an apartment in a strange city, longing for home.

Next up was “Team Short,” & first poet Lauren Schroeder read an urban poem, wondering abut the lives of people in an abandoned house. Kaitlyn Rooney‘s poem “’98” was about memories of growing up. Jenna Collins read “Driving John St. in Nassau NY” about young love. Tracie DeGonza‘s poem “Child as Teacher” was about trying to be a good teacher, remembering who she was.

Team Awesome” tried to appropriate the title but I think everyone was “awesome” tonight. Alex Gagliano‘s poem was “The Dreaded Goodbye,” sad & proud for her father going off to Mexico for his job. David Mellan read an anguished poem, “Elegy for Elizabeth.” Hannah Stewart read a descriptive poem, “All About Me.” Daniella Watson‘s “House” was a metaphor for her life, an impassioned well-controlled performance.

Fierce Force Five” was the final (just to add to the alliteration) team, starting with the fiercely poetic Katelyn Silberstein‘s poem, also a description of herself, filled with vivid similes. Haley Anderson read a poem to “a former friend,” a break-up letter with a touch of humor at the end. I have seen Alex Sherman-Cross at recent Slam competitions & her poem to a tree, about the long Winter & waiting for Spring, was recited & showed her time on stage. Karlei Fura‘s poem “3 Truths I Wish Were Lies” could be retitled “The Time I Puked from the Top of the Eiffel Tower,” for sure. The last featured poet, Jenna Herbert, ended with 2 short poems, “Between Truth & Lies” & another break-up letter, “Apologies to an Egotistical, Self-Centered Dream Boy.”

We still had a lot of open mic poets to go. After the break I started off with a recent poem on women in combat & the use of drones, “Nurture or Shooter.” Grayson Edick followed with a long piece on love & sex mixed with violence & memories of war. Jan Farrell read a meditative poem based in the natural world, like the work of James Russell Lowell. Chris Hanna did a tiny piece from memory, “True Memory” (a quickie on the roof). Brian Dorn has now become a regular here, he read his poem of the month, “From My Poem to Yours.” Tess Lecuyer read “After Dorothy is Gone” full of her usual lush images, needs to be re-read. Somehow Matt Galletta has gotten out of the house again to read “My Father’s Severed Head,” an ironic poem about a prank from his childhood.

A new voice tonight was Camerin who read an untitled relationship piece about silencing herself, then finding words to speak. Daniel Nester was responsible for bringing the marvelous featured poets here tonight, which was an achievement in itself, but he also signed up for the open mic to read a pastiche of my Blogs, “Dan Wilcox Reviews the Third Annual Winter Solstice Reading in Hell” about a poetry reading hosted by Virgil with such readers as Allen Ginsberg, Anne Sexton, Gertrude Stein, & Walt Whitman — hey, I could’ve written myself, if I was dead (Thanks, Dan). Kevin P.(eterson) got quite a reception from the (young) audience, & started to recite his parking-ticket poem (along with tips about parking), but then, as often happens, the poem disappeared & he stopped when it stopped (but there is a hug at the end of the poem). Marcus Anderson squeezed in a the end to read an older piece “Freedom,” not just political, but spiritual, personal.

We don’t always have standing-room-only here on the Third Thursday, but it would be great if we did — come on out to the Social Justice Center each month — 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30, a modest $3.00 donation, & bring a poem to read.