Back in the early 90s, I wrote and performed a lot of poetry. It was all very specific to its time and place. Looking back on it, it was mostly crap.
In recent years, I’ve started writing again. In fact, I’m getting serious about it, meaning that I’m actually trying to — gulp — improve and seek out criticism. I’ve been helped a great deal in this effort by some poets from the upstate New York region.
I decided last night to finally go read some poems in public again. And I chose the perfect event — Poets Speak Loud, an annual gathering in tribute to the former dean of the Albany poetry scene, Tom Nattell. You can hear last night’s event in its entirety at albanypoets.com. The site is a great example of how to run a local poetry site. Frequently updated, welcoming of all poets, full of useful features.
The open mic was a lot of fun. I felt very welcomed by the organizers and established poets, several of whom encouraged me to come out again. Little things like that mean a lot. By and large, the quality of the writing was good. There were highlights — Dan Stalter’s hilarious and insightful slam performance, Mary Panza’s reading of Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem, and Scott Casale’s sensual reading of a poem about sex. Host Dan Wilcox kept everyone in good spirits and kept the evening moving right along, which is always appreciated.
After the reading, most of the gang walked to Washington Park. One of the poets — I know his name but will leave it out to protect him from prosecution — climbed atop the statue of Robert Burns and put a beret on top in honor of Nattell.
I was curious about the history of the statue. I found this online:
The Robert Burns Statue was erected in 1888 in Washington Park and has an amazing story. One Mary Macpherson, a poor house maid, saved all of her money and donated $30,000 to build what has been called the best statue of Robert Burns in the World and is the second oldest surviving statue of Burns to be created in the United States. It is also one of 20 monuments in the world erected before 1890 in honor of that great Scottish poet. The statue is the largest work ever produced by Charles Calverly, who was born in Albany in 1833. His most complex work was the 16 foot Burns monument, a seated figure cast in bronze, resting on a pedestal of Scottish granite. The statue is formally known as the Macpherson Legacy to the City of Albany.
Anyway, check out the podcast. I’m in Part 2.