THERE’S A POETRY SCENE IN ALBANY, NY!
POETRY STILL LIVES IN THE 518
Yes, and in fact, there’s a HUGE Poetry Scene and a Poetry Open Mic happening almost everywhere in the 518, Capital District area and that scene unknown to many has been going on for quite a few years. Decades in fact. This area’s writing and poetry scene is rich in its history & legacy and unless you’ve actually ever been to a local poetry open mic or event then you are missing out on something truly great which is area poets & writers sharing their words, voices, and work with others. This has been happening since and even before the 1980s and continues to this day carried on by others who have picked up the torch and created events for poets old & new to gather. Perhaps you’ve never heard of such area poets as D. Colin, Nancy Klepsh, Carol Fraser, Thom Francis, Dan Wilcox, Ian Macks, Avery Stempel, Hex M J’ai or Mary Panza. And there are many many more. These are just a handful of poets including myself who have in Albany, Troy, Saratoga, and other areas of our community who have strived & continued to keep the ever-growing diverse spoken word alive and who have created many events, projects, groups, and venues over the years to promote & keep the writing scene alive in the Capital Region and to this day run open mics with featured poets which continue at such places as The Social Justice Center, The Linda In Albany, Caffe Lena in Saratoga, (Little Pecks, Elixir 16, Collar City Mushrooms – 2nd Sunday, The Fish Market – Poetic Vibe, all in Troy) as well as my own events/venues, *Invocation Of The Muse at Albany’s Lark Hall & The Dead Man’s Press Ink Spoken Word Showcase at The Fuze Box. Many of these events are new and have been started up after Covid 19 and are just beginning to flourish and grow and are attracting audiences back to live open mics where poets can freely express themselves in public. And like many music/band events and venues are very excited to get me back to creating once more. I could go on and on about the full history of this area’s poetry lore but would literally require an entire book to tell the tale. The stories about the old punk rock club where many of us began, The Qe2 where Tom Nattell ran its legendary Poetry Open Mic to stories about such local area poets as Paul Weinman and so many others who have now since passed and have become legacy, our connection to the roots of the poetry scene. Albany Poets ( Now A Part of The (HVWG) Hudson Valley Writers Guild) past readings over the years that have been a part of that story ( The School of Night at Valentine’s/Vox at The Lionheart, Border’s Books & numerous coffee houses, cafes and art galleries) The list forever goes on and always will.
There is no stopping this area’s love of poetry.
It’s a poem, a voice that continues by itself in the making.
“All writing is experimental when it comes to prose & poetry. And when people demean or insult someone’s ideas or work in such a manner it shows ignorance & arrogance.
The close minded never progress.”
~ R.M. Engelhardt
Held on the 1st Monday evening of each month INVOCATION OF THE MUSE is an Open Mic For Poets & Poetry and we welcome writers both old and new. Originally started just last November at The Fuze Box ( Which now features The Dead Man’s Press Ink Spoken Word Showcase w/HEX Dance Night afterward) in Albany we have since moved our main open mic to Lark Hall ( 331 Hudson Ave Albany) where poets and writers sign up and take the stage to read their poems. It’s a beautiful and amazing place for such an event with a lot of local history and the owners (Justin & Jennifer Miller) are incredibly open and supportive of local artists & musicians in our area. We still have a featured poet here on a regular monthly basis and even more, are on the way. This month’s poet/ performer is the one and only Dmitry Wild ( Of The Band Dmitry Wild & The Spells) with music by Houses In Motion (June 6th) and we are pleased to have him share his work with us. Each month we try to bring something unique to the spoken word scene with not just poetry but from artists from all backgrounds. We look for musicians, lyricists and poets whose work is something that is sometimes outside the idea or definition of what people think poetry is. We strive to push the envelope beyond just your average expected poetry reading. Everyone has something to contribute from different styles to backgrounds. Each month you will hear everything from slam poetry to a story or to even a song. It’s all for the asking. It’s all that you choose to share with others. Everyone has something to contribute including you. The stage is always waiting.
This month? Our featured poet is none other than singer/songwriter Dmitry Wild. Dmitry’s work/poetry is something that he has wanted to publicly share for some time. And with his band The Spells his music has already reached and entertained a great many people but tonight he’s excited to share a different side of his creativity. He’s a born poet, a troubadour from another era almost forgotten. He even includes his own poetry on his YouTube channel which many musicians in this day & age don’t usually do. In his own words Dmitry says :
“Looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone of being behind the guitar and just to be holding a mic. I kind of started this as an experiment and recorded a bunch of videos with spoken word over it and June 6th, will be the first time I will be presenting some new pieces with Houses in Motion Eric Rosemann on the decks. ” Dmitry also has an actual book out of his work which he’s promoting called ” Rebel Eyes, Poetry Prose & Short Stories” a new collection of his work.
So tonight is the night.
The mic and stand are waiting for poets upon the stage. Our sign-up sheet is full of poets waiting to read. Some new, some old. An Invocation Of The Muse always begins with the reading of a poem by a poet of the past. So tonight I walk up to the stage and in the light, I begin by reading a poem by Dylan Thomas. The poet famous for his poem ” Fight Against The Dying Of The Light” but instead I’m reading an old favorite of mine entitled ” In The Beginning” to rally the crowd and start the evening off. Usually, we begin the open mic at 8 pm but we had a few sound issues but all is well. We can hear the poetry loud & clear so we’re good. Poets and friends are getting drinks at the bar, conversations are flowing and there is an energy on this night that starts to grow. After reading my Invocation Poem by Dylan Thomas I make a few short announcements and I introduce the 1st poet on the signup sheet. It’s his first time here reading but ironically not his first time at an open mic. He goes by a new name “NY Rehd” which I don’t immediately recognize. But his real name is Marlon, an Albany poet who I haven’t seen take the stage for many years. A regular back in the days of the QE2 era. It’s great to see him and hear his work. His new poems speak of acceptance & ” Afro-Dominance” and the understanding of race & community, communication in a spoken-word style and form. Next up is Sam Maurice. Sam is the Co-Editor/Intern of Albany Arch Literary Magazine. Maurice has been a regular since the beginning of Invocation back in November 2021 at the Fuze Box. His work is always something insightful and different and he reads two prose pieces from a new book he is currently working on. Patrick Williams, our next writer up is also a regular visitor to our open mic and brings the audience closer with his words, one particular poem called ” Perseverance” which is a villanelle.
"The Dream Dies
The Human Fire
There is a moment of shared silence. Then awe.
Then his voice & words meet with applause.
This is the effect of a good poem. A place we can all understand & relate to. The words of others speak to all of us who have gone through these similar shared experiences. That’s what poetry is usually about. That’s why poetry will always survive. Live. It’s a part of our humanity. Our reflection in the mirror.
So the grand moment has arrived. Dmitry, our evening’s featured poet is ready. Dressed in black and wearing a bowler hat (which somehow seems oddly familiar to the writer of this said article) I announce him and tell a brief story of how we met. From the Hudson Valley his band The Spells performed here in Albany back a few months ago along with the Hex Dance Night & when as a part of it I was reading some of my work for the Dead Man’s Press Ink Spoken Word Showcase. Outside later in the conversation, we talked about almost everything. Our love of certain bands, music… Tom Waits, T Rex, Nick Cave, and then … AHA! POETRY! I Knew it! Musicians and poets, lyricists are not that far apart or for that matter much different. When we write in one form or another it’s an expression of our inner selves. Songs have rhythm, poems have a rhythm. Poems are spells and spells are words etc. but we all write out of the need to write whether it be music or poetry. It’s an addiction that we live for. As Dmitry walks up to the stage he’s met with instant applause and takes to the stage as he owns it. And no stranger to the mic he starts to tell the story of his book and the pieces he’s about to read. As he goes along he moves across the stage pacing under the lights which hold the crowd’s attention. To go into further detail would be a very long article. But the poems that caught my attention the most by him were called ” Dinosaur ATM” and a life manifesto called “Fear Mantra”. Fear Mantra is about the evolution of humankind and all of the obstacles it’s faced through the voice of the writer. Century after century, time after time.
"Fear doesn't own meFear doesn't control meNaked and FearlessI will turn into consciousnessethereal and ever presentManifestations of the Great KrishnaI create my own lucid dream world andmy intellect is my library of knowledge"
Dmitry read many other poems in his 25-minute performance that were equally amazing.
And it appears that we share the same view. That poetry is the basis of everything that is sacred, mystical, beautiful, and eternal. The language of the soul. He leaves the main stage with another loud applause from his fellow writers, friends and poets, and in a heightened mood of what is almost like seeing your favorite band at a live concert we move ever forward and to the next poet up, Joshua Ward, also known as Josh The Poet who continues that mood. Joshua is unique. And exactly what he says he is on his Instagram. ” A Spiritual Poet”. In his voice, there is no sarcasm. In his words? Something purer like a light shining thru the darkness. In the last two months, he has become one of those poets you wish you could be whose only words come out naturally without ego. He speaks of lost souls & how we lose more every day. His name for this poem of hope against gloom was entitled ” Soul Panthers” and the audience fully supported & rallied behind him. Following hope is a tough act to follow but I tried. As the host of an open mic, you always feel a little bit more exposed. As if your words will be judged more somehow. But that’s really not the case. After Joshua I read two new prose pieces from my new hardcover book called ” Of Spirit, Ash & Bone” and what I meant by prose pieces is something you don’t hear about so much these days. The idea and rendering of parables. Something biblical in sound and yet different in modern times. One was called ” Mythical”. The taking of famous literary & art icons and putting them in the tale of the ancient Odyssey with a side note against censorship & another piece called “Too Many Cigarettes Can Cause A Revolution”. A more political poem about the greed of corporations, America & change. The best poems sometimes flow at readings in different directions. And for the first time ever since we’ve been holding the open mic at Lark Halla drunk guy at the bar, what you might call a heckler interrupted me and started spouting out strange and unrelated nonsense about Donald Trump, where I live & how all the men in Suburbia must have lots of quote “pretty women”. I have no idea of how all of these things coexist or interrelate but I’ll take that as a positive compliment and sign that my work is making people react & think. Especially if they don’t enjoy reading or sharing their own work with an audience themselves and like sitting on the sidelines instead.
Poems and words can create or destroy sometimes based upon the crowd or the subject matter. To me? After doing readings for almost thirty years it’s nothing new. Some poems are even powerful enough to bring about and inspire change. Much like the Beat Generation’s, Allen Ginsburg’s ” Howl” or even Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural poem ” The Hill We Climb”.
So now we are coming to the near end of our poetry night. It’s about 9:30 or so. And yet the audience is still interested and waiting for more. We have three, maybe four poets left. Colin Lacy is another returning poet and tonight his poems are full of a plea for humanity, our loss of logic, and reason. Algorithms & ad campaigns. Commercialism. While a first-time up-on-stage poet, a gentleman named Travis Hance shares his work with us. Hits the crowd with poems humorously referring to past memory and girls who smoked clove cigarettes in the 1990s. It’s good to hear and meet new poets who you somehow know will be back. So as the crowd still laughs and winds down we come to poet # 8 in the list who is usually # 1 on the list well known Albany area poet & long-time impresario Dan Wilcox. Dan has been a vital part of the open mic poetry scene since the QE2 era and afterward. Co-host of the big show, the big start for many of us back then with Tom Nattell they were both the two parts of the three-part group 3 Guys From Albany who traveled to all and every other Albany throughout the United States and performed there. Dan regularly writes poetry reviews on his blog and has a photograph of almost every single poet who has ever been born or existed in the Upstate NY poetry scene. Most of them except for the notorious and now long gone poet, Gary Murrow, who refused to have his photo taken and who sometimes back in the day would get up on the stage purposely wearing an old kids Halloween Groovie Ghoulies Werewolf mask just to avoid Dan who he considered to be the quote ” The Poetry Paparazzi”. Needless to say, Gary was one strange dude. As with what we thought was the final poet a kind of hush came over the crowd with the eventuality of the end of the readings. Dan, whose protests for peace over the years have been reflected in many of his poems about figures like Richard Nixon & others instead tonight decides to read a poem about a bizarre dream he was in at a party where all the guests were the familiar faces of poets & friends & where somehow he decides in the dream to go pee in a corner. An odd but hilarious poem that had the audience laughing hysterically. Maybe Gary spiked his drink in the dream realm? Who knows? A poem, a story can be almost anything but sometimes nothing without sharing it with the world. However, thinking of the strange party, the reading wasn’t over quite yet. We had one final sign-up before Dan finished.
Our last poet of the night was an unknown gentleman wearing spectacles who I’d never heard read before. A mysterious, reclusive local figure who reads his… well, dirty limericks. Everyone has a calling and this is his. Dirty funny poems. Because poetry is more than just words. It’s love, it’s introspection and it’s humor sometimes as well. Poets are not always political and or serious and the scene is wide, diverse, and in fact?
They are all a lot like you.
Human beings who work 9 to 5 and after work who want to share their voices, poems & sometimes even their unusual stories with the audience.
So if you’re interested we look forward to hearing your poems. We look forward to supporting independent poets, poetry, and the poetry scene. Never be afraid to read. It can actually be a lot of fun.
POETRY STILL LIVES IN THE 518
So step up to the mic … Everywhere!
*The Invocation Of The Muse Poetry Open Mic Returns to Lark Hall on Monday, August 1st.
See you there.
~ R.M. Engelhardt
Editor, Dead Man’s Press Ink
*POETRY/LITERARY CALENDAR LISTINGS:
Hudson Valley Writers Guild ( HVWG)