When the first Word Fest happened in 2001 it was an open mic. Since then Word Fest has grown & changed over the years to include in various years a book fair, featured readings, book launches, rock & poetry extravaganzas, a Slam invitational, even a cook-out, but always & forever open mics where anyone in the community can sign up, read, become a poet instantly, or not. Word Fest 2014 took over the 3rd week of April in Albany & this night, Friday, was the grand marathon open mic at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. You can find the list of poets who had signed up for each 5 minute slot at AlbanyPoets.com, but that’s not the whole story. Who showed up? Who didn’t? Who showed up but hadn’t signed up & still read because somebody else didn’t shown up? The full story is here, more or less, depending upon whom you believe.

I was there from the beginning to the (bitter) (incomplete) end (end) & what follows are just brief comments, observations, notes that I was able to deceiver days later, or just make up if needed.  I admit to only what I’m willing to type.  If I left out a mention of your best poem or something brilliant you said that I missed while I was taking a pee, please comment. Then you will be as famous (?) as I am & we’ll all be beautiful, but none of us will be mentioned in Metroland in the Morning. & I’m sorry if I didn’t speak to you during the reading. If I had I would have been distracted & there wouldn’t be so many photos (you can see them all at my Flickr! site) & I wouldn’t have enough notes to write this Blog.

Mary Panza was the host, beginning to end. Nancy Klepsch was up first, reading “Invocation” (for Tom Nattell) & “We Need an Army of Harvey’s” (i.e., Harvey Milk). Alan Catlin read from a new chapbook Beautiful Mutants. Charles Straney’s poems were about everyday. Alan Casline shared some jazz-inspired poems a la Jack Kerouac. We haven’t seen Shaun Baxter at an open mic in a long time, so glad to hear him read his Icarus in Albany poem. Howard Kogan’s single poem was “In the Beginning.” Mizana read poems from her phone on aging & time. Surprise, surprise, Don Levy’s poems were about eating & homophobia. & then I was not surprised to hear Carol H. Jewell read one of her signature pantoums. Joe Krausman jumped from cyberspace to the Bible to baseball.

Susie said this was the 2nd time she has read her poems out & had a nice Jewish boy for you. Cheryl A. Rice included a recent poem about being sunburned in Costa Rica. Tim Verheagen had us in stitches with his (now) legendary memoir “The Fuck Family.” L-Majesty’s poems were about sex, drinking & sex. Glenn Werner was experimental & political. Adam Tedesco referenced jazz trumpeter Olu Daru (& son Nasir Jones) & read the 2nd pantoum of the night. It was good see Karin Maag-Tanchak again & hear her poem about moving & finding old photos. Mike Jurkovic mixed poems of New York & Handel. Tess Lecuyer expanded the catalogue of the night’s forms with a sonnets & a villanelle. Back once again, former Metroland Best Poet R.M. Engelhardt read some of his classic poems.

Carolee Bennett read a retrospective poem & another of love & comets. Matt Galletta battled a humming microphone, included a poem about rock music, “In the Garage.” I had not signed up but there were some no-shows, as expected, so Mary fit me in to read some poems by Gary Murrow, who was on the short list (#3) of Metroland’s Best Poets in 2012 & who seems to have a hard time making it out to these readings. Bob Sharkey read a mix of his trenchant, creaky poetry & prose. Jill Crammond included an Easter poem that she dedicated to me. A.O.R. arrived with his entourage & said he will be competing tomorrow in the Slam Invitational as part of the Word Fest at The Linda (Blog to follow).

Steven Minchin has read occasionally in open mics & one of his poems was titled “Cosmonauts Foam in their Seats” if I got it right. Among the poems Shannon Shoemaker read was her signature Slam piece about not doing Slam. Dan Rain was a fill-in with a poem about a survivor of the Tsunami. Still another fill-in, Melody Davis, read from her book Holding the Curve. Miss S. read one of her eco-poems, & another about songs from her Pandora list. Brian Dorn read (rhyming) spiritual poems for the holy weekend. Thérèse Broderick read the 2 poems included in Issue 2 of Up The River. Frank Robinson, Thérèse’s husband, read poems from his new chapbook Love Poems (guess who the poems were about). Sylvia Barnard read Easter poems from her poetry collection Trees.

Miriam Axel-Lute followed in a similar vein with poems based on a passage in the book of Matthew. Avery read fast, as he often does. Samson Dikeman included a sestina for the night’s forms catalogue. Mark W. O’Brien spent a long time looking for a religious poem. Pamela Twining read a long, Beat-name-dropping rant, then another long one. Christoph Hanna was in a similar mode, beating a dead horse. Harvey Havel read from the beginning of his new novel Charlie Zero’s Last-Ditch Attempt (Publish America).

Steven Lange

Following that, there was an extended list of poets who weren’t there for roll call, then a poet who said he hadn’t read before at an open mic, Sidlak Malaki, reciting a long monologue. Suddenly the place had filled back up, but not with the poets on the list — it was Steven Lange with an entourage of fellow medical students to hear him read an extended poem that used lots of medical terminology they all seemed to know.

& that was it. Mary Panza declared the reading over & we wandered off into the night, at least those of us who hadn’t wandered off already. A great night of words, images & characters — some of them the poets them(our)selves.