The School of Night. Albany, NY

In the late 1990s & into the early part of this century I created and ran a spoken word poetry open mic called THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT at Valentine’s as well as at a few other locations afterwards in Albany, NY. The open mic was always extremely crowded and popular and we did alot of themed nights also such as Beat Generation Night, Poe Halloween Benefits Bukowski Night and some other cool evenings before alot of these ideas took hold in other places. But as all good things my SON had a predecessor. The original group of poets in the time of Marlowe, Raleigh & Shakespeare.

Who knows?

Whenever history needs inspiration it might just return again .

The School of Night, Albany NY

Welcome To Troy September 28th

So Here We Are In Troy, NY: 


After years of creating & promoting events, poets, benefits and making poetry readings happen in Albany, NY as well as in Maine & The Florida Keys we’ve finally made it to Troy, NY and we’re happy to call it home.

And we are calling our new home for poets & poetry O’Brien’s Public House, 43 Third Street Troy, NY held on the Last Wednesday evening of each month.

obriens-irish writers-room


Because this is an amazing place and not just because I’m Irish and they have great food & drink. Don & Terry’s Pub is a beautiful place that has a lot of history& class  and for the first time in quite awhile I’m looking forward to creating a monthly event that will be something new and exciting. And it’s going be just that.

It’s time.

With a nod to all the friends & poets who came before us –

To all the wordsmiths from the streets

To all the professors & their students

To all the ladies with words to speak

I welcome you all & officially invite you to the 1st 

Troy Poetry Mission Poetry Open Mic At O’Brien’s Public House


43 Third Street Troy, NY held on the last Wednesday evening of each month.

7pm Sign Up~7:30pm Start Time



*The Troy Poetry Mission is an open mic for poets, writers old & new alike with a featured poet monthly.

$3.00 Donation requested

Hosted By R.M. Engelhardt

Meet You At The Bar

21+ Event

The School of Night Poetry Open Mic is Back in Session

Apr 04, 2013 by Thom Francis | School of Night


On Tuesday we told you about the upcoming Frequency North reading on April 11 and how Thursday nights are very busy in the poetry world here in Albany. Well, there is even more going on next Thursday evening as R.M. Engelhardt is resurrecting the School of Night poetry open mic at the Pearl Street Pub in downtown Albany.

This open mic series has come and gone a few times over the years. Before Nitty Gritty Slam was at Valentine’s, the School of Night was the monthly poetry reading at the club. After leaving the New Scotland Ave. venue, the series moved to a couple other places in the city including The Fuze Box, Ballingers (now the City Beer Hall), and Red Square. Most recently Rob was the host of the Saint Poem Reading Series at the UAG Gallery on Lark Street.

We sat down with Engelhardt to get more information about why he is starting the series up again, what makes the School of Night so different from the other mics in the area, and why is moving downtown to Pearl Street.

It’s in the air, things … the feel of poetry is changing and everything is in a way for the 21st century just starting to change. When I was hosting “Saint Poem” at the UAG something was missing and it somehow didn’t feel right. I thought that the location was helpful on Lark Street but it wasn’t getting enough public notice. Granted, poetry readings, open mics here in Albany are plentiful but in order to create a successful one you need the right place and the right atmosphere to truly bring it to into life. The Pearl Street Pub-Dirty Martini Lounge has that right feeling … it’s the right place for it downtown. The School Of Night has always been more, was always more than just a open mic or poetry reading but symbolic of exactly the people & the original purpose the group was formed for by Kit Marlowe, Doctor Dee and Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 1500s England. To share words & ideas, free verse & free thought. It has an air of mystery that surrounds it as well as an air of decadence. It has the imagery for poetry & writing of all kinds read in a dark noir place where the mood is perfect for it and captures the imagination. Back in the late 90’s Valentines nightclub fit that mood perfectly, as does the readings new venue.

Downtown Albany needs more events like this. Bringing poets & writers down to a great location and perhaps to be in an area is historic and a bit mythic. The Dirty Martini Lounge is right near The Kenmore Hotel where jazz legends used to play back in the day (The Rain-bo Room). And known gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond frequented the hotel and had partied at the Rain-Bo the night of his death. The Hotel features prominently in many of William Kennedy’s books, including his novel Legs about the life of Jack Diamond. Downtown Albany and the Pearl Street area are far cooler than most people are even aware of.

The time to bring back SON is now. Poetry seems to be both locally and internationally beginning to steer in a new and perhaps different direction. It’s looking for it’s place with new poets and writers of all styles & forms finding their voices and excited about creating poems, books and even plays. I hate labels but there appears to be only what I can call a “new movement of verse” coming into being with a mix of forms that is everything from neo-romanticism, free verse slam & new formalism as parts of it. Albany has always been from the days of readings at the QE2 a place where all kinds of writers & poets have gathered and read and I am excited to be hosting and resurrecting such a gathering where poets can speak their art. We also here in Albany believe in supporting our writers and venues and we have all worked very hard to do just that and have achieved it.

This is going to be a very cool monthly open mic which will be just that. A simple open mic to step up to and read your work. Eventually there will be featured poets as well as connected events with the Literary Rogue Magazine so keep an eye out for those events too. The School Of Night website is and we hope that poets and writers of all styles and from all walks of life will join us at The Pearl Street Pub & Dirty Martini Lounge on the second Thursday night of each month.

Now all we need is our saxophone and stand up bass players back and we will create even more magic.

The School of Night will be happening each month on the 2nd Thursday, starting at 7:30pm, at the Pearl Street Pub / Dirty Martini Lounge (1 Steuben Place Albany). R.M. is asking for a $3.00 donation.

Poetry Slams Do Nothing To Help The Art Form Survive

slam boxers

Poetry is dying. Actually, it’s pretty dead already for all intents and purposes and the rise of performance poetry slams is doing nothing to help matters. I know, I used to be a performance poet.

The first poetry slam competition was held in Chicago in 1984. Named after a brutal wrestling move, the slam saw poets perform original pieces for a live audience who voted for a winner. The early slam poets railed against what they pejoratively referred to as page poetry. They demanded, along with Bukowski, that poetry “have guts”. They wanted to democratise poetry and drag it from the academic ivory tower.

But there never was an ivory tower. There was no cabal of posh people who had purposely made poetry unintelligible. Poetry has always been words on a page, open to anyone. The politicisation of art and the drawing of sectarian lines continues to damage poetry to this today.

Like sipping a fine wine, reading poetry cannot be rushed. It reveals its pleasures over time, rewarding the careful reader with something new and beautiful each time. It runs bang against the grain of our quick-fix culture. It is already a lost discipline. I have taught poetry to hundreds of children aged seven to 14 and not one of them could name me a poet beyond Shakespeare.

A further nail in the coffin is the rise of poetry slams. I have performed at many slams and the audience is almost always half drunk and if you want to win you have to pitch your poem pretty low. The result is a scene rife with the poetic equivalent of nob jokes – and plenty of actual nob jokes.

The only division in poetry is between those people willing to take the time to read it and those who will not. When Emily Dickinson said only “the fairest” may enter her house of “possibility”, she wasn’t being elitist –she was putting up a barrier against the lazy.

Most slam poems are not strong enough to be published in even minor poetry journals. And that’s fine; maybe they don’t want to be. Then why attack the poems that do? It’s like there is an oedipal urge to kill the art that made it. We cannot allow slam poetry to replace the role poetry plays in our lives. The threat is there.

There is a school of thought that thinks slams are the answer. The slams I have attended have little to do with poetry and everything to do with a Darwinian death match where the audience picks the winner like some blood-crazed Circus Maximus mob.

Poetry, like all art, whispers its message and we must learn to slow down and take the time to hear it.