By Karlie Flood
Filled with clapping, snapping and laughter, the environment at Albany Poets’ newest event Brass Tacks, “an open mic on the first and third Tuesday of the month in a rock and roll bar,” was supportive and comfortable. There were regulars who you could tell attended routinely, and some who were attending for the first time, but that did not matter. Everyone was gathered for the same reason: poetry. “Our open mics have had a good crowd; a lot of people come once and come back. Sometimes, it’s a person’s first poetry show and they’re nervous until they get on stage,” said Thom Francis, the President of Albany Poets.
One poet wrote crime writing in the form of poetry, as well as biblical interpretations in the form of poetry. She is currently working on an interpretation of the entire five books of Moses by writing one limerick per chapter (there are 177 chapters). Another poet informed the audience that she will be teaching a “series of combing words and movement” at the Arts Center in Troy, where poets will dance to their own poems and “feel the words.” She learned the technique from a workshop through the Institute for Poetic Medicine. “You can be a dancer or just want to dance,” she said.
Albany Poets began with a desire to provide a platform for anyone to share their poetry with the world, whether it be through dancing or condensing the entire (five) Books of Moses into a poem. The community of writers in Albany is full of originality, creativity, and diversity, and Albany Poets did not want to exclude anyone. “We wanted to throw out a big net and say, ‘Hey, here we are!’ but it morphed into so much more,” said Francis. Albany Poets started in the 80s; it was the first poetry organization organizing open mics in Albany. “That was the seed,” said Francis. “Everything sprouted from there. Each open mic or poetry group has their own following and community.”
Now, Albany Poets is home to three publications; Trailer Park Quarterly, Up the River, and Offline, their new publication that allows “lovers of poetry to step away from their phone, tablet, or computer screen and read the work of some great poets on paper.” Each issue will publish the poetry of ten poets who have been featured on the Albany Poets website. They also host another open mic, Poets Speak Loud, at McGeary’s in downtown Albany, and the annual Albany Word Fest. Ugandan author and poet Mugabi Byenkya will be the first Brass Tacks featured poet, and will perform Tuesday, October 16that The Low Beat.
“No other area has as much going on in the poetry world as Albany does,” Francis stated. If you live in Albany, take advantage of the community thriving in your backyard. There is a literary event almost daily in the Capital Region, and often, there are multiple events. Whether you want to speak at an open mic, or just listen, Francis does not stray from the organization’s core mission: that Albany Poets is for everyone. “We don’t want to take ownership. We just want to get information out and encourage people to submit to journals, attend open mics, and experience new things.”