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Tag: Albany

Call for government response, in rhyme

A classic Burma-Shave sign poem

From today’s Albany Times-Union:

Greenfield residents use touch of humor to push town for road repairs

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

GREENFIELD — Denton Road residents have adopted an old advertising technique to protest the street’s poor condition.

Upset that the nearly 2-mile corridor straddling Greenfield and Saratoga Springs hasn’t been repaved in years, neighbors plugged campaign-style signs with balloons into nine bales of hay and planted them along the road.

In an echo of the old rhyming roadside ads for Burma-Shave shaving cream, the green placards form a jingle for passing motorists: “Try to avoid, The hazards here, And say out loud, Elections are near! A safe road, Is just a mirage, But we do have, A new town garage, Thank you Greenfield!”

Read the rest of the article at the TU site.

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Live from the Living Room

Jan Marin Tramontano

For the third time in as many weeks, I went to a poetry open mic last night. This one was the Live from the Living Room reading at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave.

The featured poet was Jan Marin Tramontano, an Albany-based poet and fiction writer. She read several poems about her trip to Paris and its museums from her book Woman Sitting in a Cafe. I quite enjoyed those poems, particularly a wry and observant take on the Mona Lisa. Tramontano also read several love poems, or as she described them, “love poems, self-love poems, and a love poem about our little boy.” All were very poignant, particularly those that mentioned her husband, who was sitting in the room.

Following the featured reading, a half dozen poets read a couple poems each. Dan Wilcox read a wonderful piece about wanting to read love poems to someone … a poet whose name I didn’t catch (but who I always see at the library where he works) read a funny poem about heaven as a gated community … and performance poet A.C. Everson recited a piece about what a bastard Cupid is. I read two recent pieces, “Luxury Hotel” and “Robby Burns’s Hat.”

I’m impressed with how diverse and active Albany’s poetry scene is. As I said at the reading last night, “I go to whichever poetry reading Dan Wilcox writes about.” Good advice, if I do say so myself.


Me at Albany Poets Presents

Last night I went to the Albany Poets Presents open mic at Valentine’s here in Albany. A recording of that reading is now available at My section starts about 9:45 into the recording, but I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

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POEM: Robby Burns’s Hat

Here’s my contribution to the memory of Monday. For more, read Dan Wilcox’s Birthday Poem, 2009 and his write-up of the event.

Robby Burns’s Hat

Crusty snow beneath our boots
as we watch a limber young poet
scamper atop the McPherson Legacy.

Once settled between Robby’s legs,
he takes the beret — the same one
they used last year —

and balances it on top of Robby’s head.
The last time, it was up there a week before
a less young, but no less limber, poet

found the beret at the base of the Legacy
and rescued it from oblivion, restoring
the cap to its place of honor twelve months later.

And so it goes, year after year, in honor
of the man who started it all, and who
made the trail through the snow that we follow.

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My first poetry reading in 15 years

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 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.

Bob Burns
Bob Burns

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.

Google Books has a Harvard publication from 1889 called Historical Sketch of the Burns Statue by R.H. Collyer. You can read it at the Google Books site.

Anyway, check out the podcast. I’m in Part 2.

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Lights out, everybody!

Last night, Jen and the boys and I went to see some percussion ensembles from the Albany Youth Symphony Orchestra. The concert was at the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of St. Rose. The Massry Center is a brand new performance and rehearsal building with state-of-the-art facilities.

Unfortunately, it also has one major design flaw. The light switches that control every light in the auditorium are located about three feet up on the wall outside the auditorium, and the switches blink.

How do I know this? Because while the theater was filling up and the final ensemble was finishing its rehearsal, my two-year-old son, John, saw the pretty blinking light and pressed all the switches, turning off every light in the auditorium. Some people started leaving. My wife overheard one patron say, “They must not want us in there now.”

I saw what John had done and turned the lights back on. The rehearsal finished, and the rest of the show went off without a hitch. But some architect ought to be giving the college a refund for that part of the design. Or they should have a “no two-year-old boys” policy.

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