June Open Mic: Featuring Laura Klinkon

Last night’s Just Poets featured reader, Laura Klinkon, did what few poets do with such an opportunity, she stayed completely from the dark side (sort of). Klinkon, quiet, crafty and so, so subtle, entertained the full-house audience of poets, patrons and friends at Ken Kelbaugh’s “Before Your Quiet Eyes” bookstore. So soft spoken herself, yet, her poems brought loud laughter and smile-wide surprise as she read pieces from her three published works. Her poem, “Salt Potato” a clear peak at Klinkon’s style: keen observations, comparisons (shapes and names of kindred potatoes) with some tongue and cheek, a whisper of bite, make her work well worth hearing and reading. In another set of poems about flies, yes flies, her lines speak about the nuance of them noting and charting each year, “… They are different, these flies from 2014.” Rich and intriguing she plays with object and idea. Or from her book “Looking Askance” the poem “I Liked You Before” referencing the change caused by a colonoscopy, etc --funny stuff and insightful (sorry).

“I offer no gravitas; most of my work here tonight is silly and satirical,” so says Klinkon. Satirical yes. Silly? Not so much. Klinkon, born in Sicily, masters level educated in Pittsburgh with work credentials that include the French Embassy and the Library of Congress, she is as seemingly unassuming as her poetry. But to assume there isn’t a keen eye on everything around is to mistake the strength of Klinkon.

Find Laura's work on Amazon: Looking Askance, Kitchen Abrasives, and Trying to Find You

The Open Mic, hosted by David Yockel was strong with a variety of good poets (15) bringing new and old to the metal music stand (podium). Bob McDonough with Maril Nowak and Bart White shared the reading of McDonough’s poem about the first (and only) death in major league baseball (1920); “Ray Chapman, HBP” (hit by pitch). David Michael Nixon, Colleen Powderly, Jennifer Maloney, Roy Bent, Mitch Valente, Bill Pruitt, Michelle Brown, Gracen Lynch, Dwain Wilder, Ellie, Charles Banks, Bart White, David Delaney, and host David Yockel rounded out the field. Really strong stuff. If I were looking for poetry I’d be heading where this group takes nourishment. Stop by in July (7:00 pm the 11th). Bring a poem. August’s JP featured reader: William Pruitt.

Review By David Delaney

Le Mot Juste 2018 on the STORE

Le Mot Juste 2018 is now available.

MEMBERS can pick up their free copy at any Just Poets event. For members who have expressed a preference, your copy will be mailed to you. Additional copies are available to MEMBERS for $8.00 at Just Poets events.

The STORE provides the ability to buy additional copies to be shipped to you, whether you are Member  or Non-Member. STORE pricing includes Shipping & Handling.

If you have never been a member, use our special price to join for July 2018-June 2019, and receive a copy of LMJ 2018 now, at the Member price, as well as receive your free Member copy of LMJ 2019 when available next year.

Cover Photo Courtesy of Kent Divers, CR Kent Divers Photography

April Open Mic: David Purdy

Last night’s Featured Reader David Purdy claims his work is “eclectic.” Perhaps. But there is definitely a romantic thread well woven deep through his work. In one of his untitled poems, he writes “… she calls me sunshine, I’m more like the moon’s dark side… lucky me she has enough for two.” Purdy wrote lovingly, sensually about his fountain pen; his poem “Rock Doves”, witty and caring, compares village life of these birds to city dweller rock doves, concentrating with keen eye on the flight and beauty of one female rock dove “…shy, keen of foot.” In his other poems Purdy catches metaphorical glimpses of nature and weather, his trip to Ireland, and touching tribute to his sister “My Sister Alice” and another dedicated to his daughter Alice. Rhymes, internal and end, metered, Purdy offered a good solid read.


The Open Mic portion brought out some fine work as well: Frank Judge’s “Will You Write Me a Poem”; Buffalo poet Dr. Scott Williams read his clever and meaningful haiku and senryu; Maril Nowak read a fun “golden shovel” poem; Robert McDonough read a beauty: “My Mother Changing My Father’s Dressing”; Dr. Phillip Sterling, professor and well published poet in the area giving readings at local universities, read from his new book And Then Snow; Jennifer Maloney moved the audience with her insightful poems “Boys” and “Maplewood”; Bill Pruitt held the group with his call-to-action bellwether poem warning all to get involved politically. Just Poets President Bart White wrapped up the open mic and evening reading a poem, “Gravity” from MJ Iuppa’s newest book; The Thirst. White finished by reading “History Lesson” from JP member Leah Zazulyer’s book, Alone as a Stone.


Next Month, May 9th, Just Poets featured reader; Mary Hood. Thanks to Ken Kelbaugh and his bookstore Before Your Quiet Eyes for the great hospitality.

Review by David Delaney

January Open Mic: Featured Poet Lisa Metzger

Only four poems. Imagine that. January’s featured reader and new Just Poet, Lisa Metzger, made it short and bittersweet. Metzger, a writing instructor at RIT, and former Adirondack Wilderness guide, covered a lot of hard territory in a very short time. Her first poem, about time with her grandmother in North Carolina Grannie’s Grapevine, held lessons learned as a child. The next poem, about the death of a friend on Whiteface Mountain, delicately blended winter scenery into the weight of the tragedy. Her final poems, The Knot about post-divorce, and Dis-ease, the need to end a difficult friendship, cut grit hard. All were set up and delivered well; an honest read.

Open mic was exceptional as well. There were so many poets (18) anxious to read, JP host David Yockel had to enforce the “three minute” rule. And Ken Kelbaugh owner of Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore needed to set up another row or two of seats. Good stuff poured forth. Last night’s poets who read were: Laura Klinkon, Robert McDonough, Maril Nowak, Jere Fletcher, Frank Judge, Jim Jordan, Bill Pruitt, David Delaney, Kevin Minh, Gracen Lynch, Roy Bent, David Purdy, Jennifer Maloney, Reily Hirst, David Michael Nixon, Bart White, Charles “CB” Banks, and David Yockel.

Many outstanding poems; just a note on a few; Jere Fletcher’s Honor Them a poignant piece on the sacrifice of war; Bill Pruitt’s The Names of Algae an assessment of our world and need for action by those who have the means to act; Gracen Lynch’s original piece about corners “eight billion corners in this round world,” Reily Hirst’s I Will Never be the Same = a smart rock-and-river metaphor about love. And CB’s Murder of Crows about justice, cleverly cloaked in feather. 

A good night for poetry and good night for Just Poets.

 

Holiday Reader's Theater

Just Poets’ first Readers Theater was crisp as a Dickens Duck.  Staged in the Rochester Academy of Medicine's Victorian ambiance of ornate mahogany, lovely fireplace, and classic wall-to-ceiling bookcases, every seat held laughter, silence, and riveting attention to the performers (Kitty Jospé, Almeta Whitis, Craig Schantz, Bart White, Roy Bent,  R. Emmett Michie), and the event’s creator/ producer/director: Celeste Schantz. Poetry, stories, song, it had it all.

Terrific. So glad we came,” said Jim Dangler. Dangler’s sentiment was echoed throughout the beautiful hall where these performers brought perhaps a new tradition to not only Just Poets, but Rochester, as well. The grand piano warmed the air in elegant holiday/classical note (thank you Willie Ellebee and Kitty Jospé).  And the table of treats at intermission, tastefully displayed, would have made Tiny Tim’s eyes sparkle.

Who could have asked for more when several Just Poet members came out of the audience of nearly 60 to read delightful and poignant “Letters to Santa” from then to now.

Toss in a raffle, $300 raised for the Open Door Mission, and the finale: the audience joining together singing Auld Lang Syne,  it was as warm and moving as Bob Cratchit’s crackling Christmas hearth.

From soup to nuts, well done.

Happy Holidays,

David Delaney

October 11th: Featured Poet Charles "SeaBe" Banks & Open Mic

 Charles "SeaBe" Banks

Charles "SeaBe" Banks

Charles (aka “SeaBe”) Banks performance was also a JP book launch for his SeaBe: My First Poetry Book, Inner Child Press (2014). Bravo, Charles! Your poems not only capture the contemporary urban voice, but readers will hear your deep basso reading voice as they enjoy this wonderful chapbook.

He led off with a new poem Life Crosses a Dangerous Road, where “time heals, but it also kills.” Then he asked the audience to choose from four categories: Love, Fun, Social Ills, or Death. The audience chose Fun.

The response was an hilarious ode to fast food, Burgers and Fries, from his chapbook: “I’ll be Burger King’s Queen / just slip me … some onion rings.” And what will it take to make his girl “squeal / call me her Big Daddy”? (Hint: something from McDonald’s that rhymes with “squeal” and is said to be “happy”) After large applause, the audience again chose Fun.

Banks treated us to Happy Belated Goose Day. No, really, he assured us Goose Day is September 30th. Well, who knew? “I goose on Facebook. / Pokes are not polite.” He’s a fine comic, and the audience really gave it up for him. Then someone called for Social Ills.

He dressed us in DeaD- Man’s Clothes, lost among the hopeless homeless, stressing the “Heavy deaDness / No place to be living …” in a jazz poem worthy of comparison with some of Langston Hughes’. Banks named Hughes as one of his poetry mentors. Listen: “Livin’ in Dead Man sleeves / Strapped up belief / Lifeless Belt pulled tight …” Can you hear a bit of Hughes? The audience next chose Love.

Another new poem, Rare Love, manifested passion as “a hunger for another / rarely goes away.” Hear it and fall in love all over again. Next, the audience picked Social Ills.

Way Ward BounD is a kind of love poem to the homeless: “I live on the Edge the cut the corner the curb ….. where stePPs serve as … / Tables and Chairs,” and other images, especially hunger, that make homelessness too painful to ignore.  By now you've noticed Banks’ eccentric capitalization and punctuation, reminiscent of Russell Atkins, Bob McDonough’s Cleveland composer/poet friend Bob presented to our group last year.  Then the audience opted for Fun.

PUMPkin BuTT pie Sweet Potatoe Bootie gave a recipe that came with “a warning / readings / careful if you taste it it cums alive / it’s attracted to BiGG Ole BUTTS / and yours is the right size …..” It's a Thanksgiving poem from hell,  that could have come from Rice, Gorey, or Poe but is Banks’ own little demonic piece. It is also included in SeaBe, his chapbook.

SeaBe closed with a new Love poem. In Poets, who “travel light,” he credits Leonard Cohen and Billie Holliday for that concept, citing poets “with their watchful eyes, leaking hearts …

Given Banks’ theatrical delivery and honest words, don’t hesitate to buy his book, to attend his readings, or to regard him as an emerging poet among contemporary greats. To a relatively new JP member, “Welcome Charles, and keep ‘em cOMinG!”

David Delaney

August featured poet Jennifer Maloney & open mic

Just Poets welcomed first-year member Jennifer Maloney as the featured reader for our second Wednesday of the month reading at Before Your Quiet Eyes, Ken Kelbaugh’s fine bookstore on Monroe Avenue.

Maloney said the poems she read follow a twenty-year hiatus from writing when poverty, addiction, and mental and physical abuse dominated her life. Emphasizing survival, Maloney credits the gift of friends and community for her return to poetry, as well as advice from Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoting Polonius: “To thine own self be true.”

From her first poem, Fight Song, we realized the ambiguity of flight and fight, from “I’m loose, light, and ready,” then “shit peppered with love … maybe she’s dying of love,” to “I watch him silently planning his next drunk.” The flight soon becomes a fight for survival in Women’s Meeting, in which the poem’s voice rose “high, high, high … then dropped back down … like a shovelful of graveyard dirt.” In The Floor a child’s voice says “I can’t explain the taste of the floor,” as the older-wiser voice reflects, “Children believe … they try to make sense.” The adult voice of Stars and Stripes wants her flag freed from the insanity in Washington today: “We are too old for tears,” and at night we have the stars as window blinds “stripe the floor with moonlight.”

Next Maloney lightened the atmosphere with several pet poems. Sammy, a dog, “stretches one leg back, arabesque,” as if he were a ballet dancer, and provides comfort: “Sammy has faith in us, faith in himself.” The man who hates his woman’s cats, The Man Who Loved Cats Dancing, wields the power of the tuna can while calling them filthy names and screaming at them to “use the scratching post!” Indeed, “they listen to him.” And for every pet-lover, Thou Good and Faithful dog who died thirty-plus years ago is remembered for “the white, muddy feathers of his underbelly.” He is “warm, wet and stinking … is there anything more than this?

Maloney closed with four powerful pieces. Miss September finds a California sugar-daddy in “the place where honeypot meets honey trap.” A typical take on an air-headed beauty? No, Miss September “isn’t stupid … Miss October isn’t 18.How Things End begins at home where “the lights went off.” A couple living in their car eats “the last of the bananas,” thinking “we could drive home, but there’s nothing there. … At least the car has blankets.” In Of Miracles Tatiana is a short young black woman mistaken by police for a tall black male suspect. She is beaten by the Bakersfield PD and bitten by their dog. She “made the mistake of thinking she was an American citizen.” Maloney’s observation: “The real crime is not driving while Black … but breathing while Black.” Like Maloney, Tatiana is a survivor.

Closing out, The Poet’s Lament poked fun at all of us when we take ourselves too seriously: “Do you know who was better, Bukowski or Ginsberg?” Maloney’s advice is learn to “shut the hell up … simply let someone else speak. … After all, we are just poets.”

Or was it Just Poets?! The room was rapt and packed. A dozen readers offered their work at the open mic. The Coffee Connection, a non-profit supporting women in recovery, provided regular, decaf, and decadent cookies. Thanks again to Ken for providing the space in which such magic happens.

Maril Nowak

 Open Mic

Genesee Reading Series: Colleen Powderly & Kristen Gentry

Two women: one an author of short stories, one a poet; years separating their perspective on life; an interesting and enlightening evening at Writers & Books—Genesee Reading Series last night (August 8th).

Poet Colleen Powderly came with that podium ease that so entices the audience to engage, laugh and make that “hmmm”sound when a line hits its target (poets do that). It was a pleasure to travel through her love affairs, her ekphrastic poems based on a Vincent Van Gogh day calendar, and her strong Ten Penny (nail) poem about returning to Ireland with her aging father. Powderly’s poems are clear, eagle eyed, honest, and tell a story. They also work because there is craft in her work. But it is her ability to see “new”: in relationships; My Lovers’ Hips sees the daylight; “I watched light grow into the trees outside…” and on Van Gogh’s paintings of women working in the field; “He began to ‘see’ while painting them...” ; this is where one finds the word 'profound.' 

Short story writer Kristen Gentry, Associate English Professor at SUNY Geneseo, read Mama Said the lead piece in her upcoming collection of linked stories. Mama Said looks inside the strain of daughters and mothers tied to addiction. Gentry read with animation and insight about that egg-shell walk around parental addiction; the mother “touching her arm to see if she is alive,” the daughter“of wishing she could run her mother over with the car, not to die, but to let her know how mad she was…” set that fear and anger in good passage.  Her comeback- overture line Gentry brought throughout the story was “you can’t fix her.”  But Gentry’s protagonist and story find a fixing strength and a worthy conclusion.    

A good reading last night.

David Delaney

July Open Mic: Le Mot Juste 2017 Edition

On the way out of the Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore that held JP’s (Just Poets) “Open Mic Night,” last night (7/12/2017), a first-time attendee (Mike) turned and said,” I am impressed; I just heard a lot of good poetry….” Normally JP hosts a featured reader each month, but last night most of the poems came from JP’s 2017 anthology Le Mot Juste.

Kitty Jospé, this year’s LMJ editor, led the read around by many of the JP members in attendance. The annual publication contains the work of more than 60 poets, all ages, all thoughts – all good. It makes one think about the importance of poetry, and also makes one stop to thank the founders who started the Just Poets group: Donna Marbach, Claudia Stanek, Lorrie Divers and Harold Dill. There was an easy and solid sense of unity last night because these and other poets, who more than a decade ago, took the time and effort to put this idea into reality. The result has been a growing and welcoming poetry group that now reaches near 90 in members and reaches into the Greater Rochester community bringing the power of words where it does and will do its magic. 

After the LMJ read around, the Open Mic brought some new work to the audience: Maril Nowak read her poem, The Success of Age; Gene Stelzig read his poem, All Our Ships Have Sailed; David Purdy read a written-that-morning piece on overlooking the Erie Canal, and another generated from his and poet Monica Beck’s June trip to Ireland entitled The Green That Grows Upon the Orange. Monica read a Yeats classic When You Are Old. Jere Fletcher read his poem, Morning Glory; Jen Hu read an as-of-last-night untitled poem; Charles Banks read his poem, The Skeptic, Kitty Jospé’ her poem, Hamlet’s Reply to Recipes Based on Jell-O. Several attendees read additional LMJ poems for poets who did not attend. 


Next Month’s Open Mic (August 9) features Jennifer Maloney.

David Delaney

Just Poets Annual Picnic & Le Mot Juste 2017

On Saturday, June 3rd, Just Poets held its annual picnic. This event always gives JP members a chance to catch up with each other as well as celebrate the publication of our yearly anthology Le Mot Juste

 The 13th edition of  Le Mot Juste,  dedicated to our good friends Michael & Carolyn Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing. Celebrating 30 years of publishing, Michael & Carolyn have hand-made every LMJ edition.

The 13th edition of Le Mot Juste, dedicated to our good friends Michael & Carolyn Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing. Celebrating 30 years of publishing, Michael & Carolyn have hand-made every LMJ edition.

This year's LMJ editor, Kitty Jospe, shared this write-up of our big day:

"A hearty thank you to Karla Linn Merrifield who hosted the Just Poets annual picnic for the third year in a row.  In addition to a feast of delicious foods, we had a visual feast of poetry, starting with a couch covered by books generously donated by Bill Heyen. As he modestly said, it’s because his publishers are going out of business. Karla suggested that people wanting to match his generosity make a $5 donation to Just Poets.  I believe she meant in particular for the hardcover copy of Hiroshima Suite with the stunning cover illustration by DeLoss McGraw, The Fish, but certainly, there were so many other books to choose from.

Other poets brought works as well--the top drawer of a chest was open to disclose titles.  Facing the couch was a delightful photo display Bart White put up of members and their activities.

After we ate, Bart gave a lovely overview of all the activities of Just Poets and all the people who worked behind the scenes to create wonderful programs and community connections.  He read a poem by Maril Nowak as an example of the fine work produced in JP meetings."                      

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Mid-afternoon waves rising to collapse
waves jazzing the pebbled shore
waves in a shimmy of sunlight
waves in a rupture of the bag
of diamonds on the pier.

It’s like this:
When you watch the water dance
you have to dance along.
When you watch the water toss
its treasure you have to grab for it.
When you watch the water’s weave
you will wear that new coat home.

"After Bart's brief but pointed year-in-review, we had a fantastic read-around where everyone shared a poem of their own. Some read from this year's Le Mot Juste, others recited new material or old favorites.

It was a great day, a beautiful display of exactly what this group has to offer. As Karla, our gracious host, remarked at the conclusion of the day: "Damn, we're good." I could not possibly agree more."

Genesee Reading Series, April 11th

The impression taken away from Tuesday night’s Writers & Books Genesee Reading Series was a sense of stillness. Neither Andrea Weinstein nor Jennifer Grotz, the two featured poets, brought the rumble of dump trucks unloading personal issues. More measured, metered and self-reflective, each in turn, offered a glimpse of themselves through their work.

Weinstein offered the sentiment “silence gives the self a chance to replenish.” Her poem, I Hear bespoke that inner search: “rhythms in blessed silence….” Using listing in several pieces, she asked in her poem, One Good Man to:  “stand up… to yell loud and long” in her humbled lament against man’s inhumanity to man. She touched upon elegies, one in particular Archaeology of Life about what others might find in the treasures left 'post  Weinstein,' listing a number of things accumulated including “neon strapped heels…”  and summed it up eloquently in her poem’s closing line “When I am not here what will be gleaned for these artifacts? I think not much.” Poetically, not true.

Jennifer Grotz read several poems from her books, but true to the night’s unofficial theme of quietude, her work was delivered in measured tone. Whether observations in her self-portrait, The Window with lines like “Eyes wide like an owl’s…anger hides in the jaw…” the window image was imaginative and superb.  Her reflections continued with poems that spoke of her writing times generated while in a French monastery. Grotz’s comment, “sight leads to insight” rang true throughout. Whether observing a Krakow nun riding across from her on public transportation or her lines from, The Mountain observed from the monastery: “No matter how long I looked I could not see it all… how to look at something too big to fit the frame…” or her delicate poem brushing fear, Scorpion, or concluding her reading with “Poppies” and the natural wonder around, which she summed up with “Love is letting the world be half tamed,” Grotz’s poems like Weinstein’s brought a stillness to the evening that was refreshing.

The Genesee Reading Series is in its 34th year at Writers & Books, held every month on the second Tuesday. 

David J. Delaney