AboutMissionHistoryBoard and Staff


Albany Poets is a local organization whose goal is to promote the poets and poetry of Upstate New York. Albany Poets hosts open mics, poetry readings, slams, music and spoken word events, and the annual Albany Word Fest to increase participation and attendance in the local arts community. Albany Poets’ website, www.albanypoets.com, is the most comprehensive resource in Northeast for news and events listings for poetry and spoken word. Albany Poets also publishes a free quarterly literary zine, OTHER:, which showcases poetry, fiction, art, and more from not just the Albany area, but all over the country.

Albany Poets mission is to give everyone the platform to share their poetry with the world. Whether it is at an open mic, on a website, or in print, Albany Poets strives to integrate poetry and spoken word into the Capital Region.


The mission and purpose of Albany Poets is to increase awareness and activity of the art of poetry and spoken word in the Albany, NY area. Albany Poets wishes to accomplish this by hosting poetry events, readings, open mikes, and workshops around the upstate New York area in order to promote the art and increase participation by both established poets in the community as well as new writers and performers. We wish to utilize the colleges and universities around the area in order to develop programs and events with students in an attempt to draw attention to Albany as a literary and cultural hub in the Northeast US.

Albany Poets will also utilize its web presence (www.AlbanyPoets.com) as a way to showcase local talent in the areas of poetry and spoken word. The web site will also act as a community center, where visitors can find get information on poets, readings, events, and links of interest to the art. The website will feature a monthly calendar to highlight the numerous literary events in the Albany area. Visitors can also register to be included in official email lists.


Albany Poets (then, AlbanyPoets.org) began in May of 2000 by poets R.M. Engelhardt and Thom Francis as a way to promote poetry and spoken word in the Albany area by featuring local poets, spoken word performers and events on the Internet. During the first three and a half years of its existence, AlbanyPoets.org was able to help build the local literary community to a level where there was more poetry and spoken word events than ever before. The organization also sponsored poetry readings, the monthly reading series, The School of Night (then held at Valentines) and began the annual tradition known as the Albany Word Fest.

Since reorganizing in late-2003, Albany Poets has held a number of poetry readings, events, and open mics in order to create a greater interest in the local poetry and spoken word community as well as promoting the poets in the area.

The newly reformed Albany Poets held its first event in February 2004 with a Black History Month poetry reading at the main branch of the Albany Public Library. Performers at this event were invited to read poetry regarding to the theme of Black History. Local poets Mojavi and Marcus Anderson were among those who performed.

In April Albany Poets began the Project:SLAM! series at the Bayou Café in downtown Albany. At this series Albany Poets brought slam poetry to the Capital Region on a regular basis for the first time off of the local college campuses.  Later that month, Valentines hosted the Under Cover poetry reading. This event presented poets performing each others work as was a way to pay tribute to the local talent that exists in and around Albany.

In the fall of 2004, Albany Poets published the first issue of OTHER:. This quarterly literary zine is available free all over the area and features poetry, art, photos, comics, and more.

In January 2005 Albany Poets began its monthly poetry and spoken word open mic, Poets Speak Loud, at the Lark Tavern. At this series, the featured poet, usually a local artist, opens the show followed by the poets and performers who signed up for the open mic.

Spring brought a “new beginning” to the Albany Word Fest. Taking elements from three previous events, Albany Poets created a two day event, spread out over four venues in Albany featuring over 60 local poets and musicians. The 2005 Albany Word Fest was where Albany Poets released its’ first CD, Didn’t I Hear You Read? This project combined the words of local poets with music and beats created by producer Leo Faierman.

The Albany Poets Presents… event series began in July after the owners of Valentines approached Albany Poets about bringing poetry back to their stage. Albany Poets had hosted events there in the past, but this series, on the first Tuesdays of each month, was going to be different. Albany Poets Presents… would be an event series where each month would showcase something different, mixing poetry, music, art, and performance into one entertaining show.

In the fall of 2005 Albany Poets made their first appearance at LARKfest, the annual street fair / arts festival held on Lark Street.  Local poets RM Engelhardt, Dan Wilcox, Rachel Zitomer, Don Levy, and The Poet Essence made history as the first poets to perform at the event in twenty-four year history.

2006 was the year that Albany Poets began producing and distributing its podcasts from recordings of open mics and events including Poets Speak Loud and the Albany Word Fest.  The website also introduced a new blog with news and information from the local arts scene and the ability for readers to subscribe via RSS to both the blog and podcasts.

Albany Poets is planning to continue its current poetry and spoken word open mics and events, publications, and recording as well as taking part in new and exciting projects to bring poetry to Upstate New York.


Thom Francis, President
Mary Panza, Vice President
Keith Spencer, D.O.O.M.
Jill Crammond
Kevin Peterson
Avery Stempel
Harith Saam, Music Director


Thom has been involved in the Albany poetry and spoken word community for ten years. In that time, Thom has published four volumes of his poetry and is currently working on a new book/CD project entitled there. Thom has been featured at such open mics and events as The School of Night (Valentines), Vox (Albany Center Galleries), Web of Consciousness (C@fe Web), Live from the Living Room (Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center), Open Spoken (Colony Café, Woodstock), Kill Your TV, Feed Your Ears (Lark Street Bookshop), Third Thursday Poetry Open Mic (Lark Street Bookshop), and the Albany Word Fest 2001, 2002 (Thacher Park), and 2003 (Valentines).

In 2000 Thom was approached by Albany area poet R.M. Engelhardt to serve as Co-Director of AlbanyPoets.org. They worked together in bring more attention to the Albany poetry and spoken word scene by posting a reading calendar and featured poets on the organizations website as well as organizing the first three Albany Word Fests.

In late 2003 Thom saw that things in the organization needed to be refocused and began working on a business plan that would better serve the upstate New York poetry community. With that, Thom brought together the Board of Directors, a new mission, a new website, and a new name…Albany Poets was born.

Since then Thom and the Board have been working hard to bring attention to not only the poets and poetry of this city, but bring attention to the city as a whole. The goal is not just to promote the artists of Albany to the world, but to also promote Albany as a place to come as a spoken word artist and perform. Thom is building relationships with poetry organizations in New York City, Boston, and other cities in the Northeast in order to make the poetry community even larger and to bring fresh new poets to this area as well as have Albany poets perform to a broader audience.

Thom serves as the President of Albany Poets with a strong passion and undying vision to make Albany the cultural and literary hub of the Northeast Untied States.



Mary Panza, Vice President of Albany Poets is Albany’s poetry diva. She originated and hosted the poetry open mic at Border’s and has been a driving force in the poetry community for a number of years. Mary has also been active in promoting, hosting, and participating in many arts events through out Upstate New York.

Mary has been the host of the Singer/Songwriter stage at the annual LARKfest street fair since 2004 and was one of the first poets to perform in the 25 year history of the arts event in 2006. Mary has published a number of poetry chapbooks and was the producer of Volume, a compilation of Albany area poets performing their work at local readings and open mics. Mary is the host of Albany Poets’ monthly poetry open mic, Poets Speak Loud, at the Lark Tavern.

Mary also serves as the Poetry Editor for the new Capital Region edition of Chronogram Magazine.



Harith Saam’s position at Albany Poets represents the expansion currently taking place in the organization. Saam was brought on board as part of the continuing effort to integrate the different, less conventional forms of poetry – in this case, music.

Saam has spent over two years hosting the highly successful music open mic at Borders Books and Music in Albany. He has become familiar with a number of promising young artists who have not yet gained much notice in Albany. Using these connections, as well as the organizational skills he has honed through his open mic, Saam brings both well-known and lesser-known acts together on the Albany Poets stage.

“My goal really is to set up the most exciting events possible,” Saam says of his position. “To me, this means you’re going to go and see someone you already know you love, and leave loving someone new as well.”

Saam’s first event with Albany Poets was the closing night of the 2005 Albany Word Fest. The five-hour event featured musicians and poets, and was a resounding success. He is currently working on organizing the upcoming Johnny Cash tribute as part of the Albany Poets Presents series, and beginning to plan next year’s Word Fest event.

“Now that Albany Poets has introduced the idea of music as a centerpiece for some of their events, I want to go even further with it,” he says. “Every show has to be better than the last one.”