Way back in ancient times (i.e., 12 years ago) when Word Fest started, it was just a stumbing toddler in Thatcher Park in the Fall, a grand open mic of everyone & anyone who wanted to & could sign up, a poetic, shall we say, cluster fuck, the alcohol induced birth of the brain-child of Albany poet & impresario R.M. Engelhardt. Now, here we were again, safely ensconced in the UAG Gallery on Lark St. for the grand Open Mic as part of the week-long 2013 WordFest. It was more poetry than even a poetry-junkie like me could stand (spoiler: I didn’t make it to the end).

Thom Francis, il papa, AlbanyPoets.com

But then some poets didn’t even make it to the beginning. This year’s open mic was scheduled from 7:00 PM to approximately Midnight. Traditionally “no-shows” occur at the late hours, that nobody wants anyway. Tonight there seemed to be a particularly thick no-show rate in the first 2-hours (1 poet posted on FaceBook due to illness, & another, Gary Murrow, is an habitual no-show — even last year when he was one of Metroland‘s “Best Poets”). Of course, like I said, I didn’t make it to the end, & so missed a couple of my friends. 5 hours of continuous poetry is too much for anyone, or as Groucho Marx once said, “I like my cigar too but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.”

With the first 2 “fine lady” poets a no-show AC Everson started the night with a wonderful piece about buying a bra at Victoria Secrets, something I can relate to. Brian Dorn has been making the rounds of open mics in the last year & shared some of his fine rhyming poems. Howard Kogan is a personal favorite & I was glad to see/hear him here. Sam C. was really a stand-up comic who stumbled into a poetry open reading. But Tess Lecuyer is a genuine Albany poet with a mix of haiku & poems.

Reuben Bruchez, another new voice, included a haibun in his short set. He was followed by a string of some of Albany’s finest poets (no matter what the Metroland readers say), beginning with Alan Catlin (as “Don Levy’s warm up act”), then Don Levy himself & his new ballsy poem “Wayne’s World,” then Jill Crammond with a couple from her Mary (BVM) series of poems. Then still another neAudrey McKey (picking up an abandoned time-slot) with a couple of emotional poems. Bob Sharkey followed playing on the “race” word, then Carolee Sherwood with a couple new poems & one from WordFest 2010, a different person then.
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James, another fill-in from the streets, read a couple of relationship poems. Julie Lomoe read of the goddess of disorder & her mother & Senator Joe McCarthy. One of my photos caught Jackie K. flailing, perhaps when reading about a wedding-night betrayal. Joe Hesch didn’t seem to know how much time he had & thus squeezed in a lot of poems. L-Majesty read from his phone one of his signature sex poems & sang one too, which got the audience hot. Kevin Peterson began with some inappropriate haikus he never got to do at the recent Slam, then read a long & very real & very inappropriate email written by someone in a sorority to her sorority sisters.

Ian Mahoney‘s poems had a high school reunion, dope men & a King of the Dishwashers. Darby Penney took us back in time, first with a pastiche of Ginsberg’s “Howl” then to Richard Nixon. David Wolcott read a memoir of driving while tripping, what he would have read at the recent “Are You Experienced?” memoir session at the Arts Center if he hadn’t been the curator. Glenn Werner took us walking the Brooklyn Bridge, while one of Adrianna Delgado‘s poems had her “Dancing on the Guard Rail” instead.

One of the traditions of WordFest is to feature the year’s Metroland‘s Readers Poll “Best Poets.”  This year the winners were Mary Panza with me & R.M. Engelhardt tied for 2nd/3rd. We got a little more time than the open-mic slots (after all, we are the “Best Poets,” aren’t we?). I read some recent poems, beginning with this year’s “Birthday Poem” & included a poem written some years ago about the Third Thursday open mic series, “One Poem.”

R.M. Engelhardt, flourishing his banana for Don Levy, included some poems from his latest collection of poetry, The Resurrection Waltz (“Epitaph,” “Alchemy,” “Lexicon”) & some not, such as “The Last Poem Written on Earth.” Mary Panza began with her iconic “Fuck the Giving Tree” & invoked the ghost of Peter Falk with one of her Housewife Tuesday pieces, “Because of You I Believe.”

I was beginning to fade, & there was still about an hour’s worth of poets left (on the schedule at least) so I decided to stick around for 2 of my favorite mid-Hudson poets, before sneaking out for a beer (or 2) & bed. Mike Jurkovic performed in his usual effusive manner, one about an accident caused by a beauty in a plum-colored v-neck, & Cheryl A. Rice read selections from her recently published, Moses Parts the Tulips, Albany poems.

Then I left, leaving more poets & words behind me, plenty more that I had hoped to see, but it had been a long night at the end of a long week of great poets from the Capital District — Long Live WordFest! Thanks AlbanyPoets for a great week of words.