INVOCATION OF THE MUSE: A New Poetry Open Mic Hits Albany, NY



An Open Mic For Poets, Poetry & The
Spoken Word.

DeadMansPressInk & myself are excited to announce the return of The Poetry Open Mic at the newly reopened FUZEBOX 12 Central Avenue, Albany NY.

*Join Us For Our First Open Mic On MONDAY November 1st 2021 At The FUZEBOX.

7:30pm SignUp*8PM Start $5.00 Donation Requested.



Please bring a valid ID, a proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid-19 test from at least 72 hours. And whenever possible please wear a mask.



All poets may come and go but it’s the words that forever remain.

It is not of the body but of that which comes from the soul which touches others.


~ R.M. Engelhardt

Maya Angelou

RIP  Maya Angelou :




Early 21st Century Poetics

“For me the poem and the poetry open mic isn’t about competition and it never will be. Honestly? It’s wrong. The open mic is about 1 poet, one fellow human being up on a stage or behind a podium sharing their work regardless of what form or style they bring to it. In other words? The guy with the low slam score is more than likely a far better poet-writer than the guy who actually won. But who are you? I ? Or really anyone else to judge them? The Poetry Slam has become an overgrown, over used monopoly on American literature and poetry and is now over utilized by the academic & public school establishments. And over the years has sadly become the “McDonalds Of Poetry”. We can only hope that the same old stale atmosphere of it all eventually becomes or evolves into something new that translates to and from the written page and that gives new poets with different styles & authentic voices a chance to share their work too.” 




“That’s the god damn problem with Albany, NY” She said.

“There are too many fucking poets “

In the city

Where I was born

They tore it all down

So many times

That we all forgot.

Because you see

I was born

In a place

Where the lives get

Lines and the stories

Become lives

Of their own.

Full of gangsters

And politicians, low

Dealers and the cops

Gotham city at it’s finest

Without a single hero

To write about it

Except us.

Because we’re just the fucking poets

And because were not the fucking law

And we are only here to tell the stories

Because this is all we own

Because we’re

The poets & the outcasts

And the makers of the songs

And the leftover soul of a city

That’s heading for a fall

And if Jesus came tomorrow

And if God closed the pearly gates

We’d still all just be the poets

Writing poems till the end of days

And we don’t write for glory

And we don’t write for time

We just write because we have to

Without a rhythm or a rhyme

So even if you leave here

Or you meet a sad demise

Remember that you’re a poet

And that’s just enough to survive


 Without the words?

It all means nothing

At all

And the poets

Will always be welcome




Where Are All The New Voices?

Poetry is dead, long live poetry  ~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti


“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;

Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass


According To The Urban Dictionary:

Slam Poetry: A Definition

The poetry that thrives in a culture of non-readers. Very sincere, bad poetry. Delivered in front of and given encouragement from a small group of people who are also bad poets. Slam poets think that their poetry is more powerful if they just yell it. Sincerely painful to listen to. It’s bad poetry. They try very hard, but they have no idea what they’re doing.

Most slam poetry could be better classified as motivational speaking or stand-up comedy.

Poetry : A Definition

 1. An archaic form of literature, now dying off. Doggerel.

As practiced in modern times, poetry is a discredited means of (supposedly) communicating aesthetic thoughts or feelings in verbal form. Thousands, perhaps millions of person-hours, disc/server space, and trees are wasted to develop and store this tripe.

“Award winning” poetry is usually the worst kind, representing the vilest outcome of combining incestuous art-cronyism with self-indulgent self-promotion.

2. A complete waste of time.

1. Bob is nearly finished with his english degree, but he still needs a credit in poetry of the twentieth century.


Small trees that shine

out of watery depths

With broken limbs, like

Becky are

Not why I write.


Above, as you have just read are two comedic and yet sarcastic definitions of what slam poetry is and what poetry itself is to a generation out there who on Urban Dictionary believe that they are being comical and witty. But the truth is that there is some deeper hidden meaning in both of these separate ideas of a definition. Once, poetry was a sacred thing full of wisdom and a secret meaning that the reader was to ponder but it was also about the words and life experiences of the poet, a mystical figure shrouded in enlightenment whose words were like prophecy. The Bible? Poetry. The Koran? Poetry. Religions and laws based on those religions? All poetry and all based on those voices and those words written by wordsmiths and scribes. And those words once meant something more and those poems were epic. Every civilization on earth from the dawn of recorded time has had their great poets. Every age had something to say that defined them. But the question now exactly is where is poetry going and where are all those voices now?

It seems that over the last thirty years or so that poetry has been manipulated into something it should never be by popular culture and by the idea that poetry is anything that you can say (ex. Lyrics) when up upon a stage for a contest and to win a few dollars. As an event idea It’s a wonderful thing that slam poetry open mics have helped academics, colleges and schools bring kids and students into the light of reading literature but it is now an overused tool and it’s time has sadly passed. Slam poetry has simply become another label that has outlived it’s time and usefulness. For poetry should be much more than this, and it has to become much more than this or it just isn’t poetry anymore and the poet merely becomes just another performer or rapper. Once upon a time poetry was important. It created new worlds of imagination and reached imaginations. It influenced and inspired generations who fought and died and who stood up against war and oppression. But tell us, where are these voices now when we need them most?  Where is our new Walt Whitman or William Shakespeare when we are merely as writers and the public writing something just to get up on a stage and to just rant but not to write any words or poems on the page that are powerful or eternal? Who will write these lasting words that will speak to our descendents or to a generation 500 years from now?

It’s time to write. It’s time to dispel the myth that true poetry in all it’s forms is not archaic or dead but alive and well and to bring those forms back into being. It’s time to be inspired and write not just for an audience who applauds you in a cafe or a bar after a few drinks and score you but for those who will read your words many years from now. So let’s be honest. Slam poetry, as a label and as a form, as a contest or as an event has had it’s day and it’s time to pronounce it dead.  If you are a true poet or a writer this shouldn’t bother you but not writing or finding the right words should because that’s what we do. You write. The 20th century produced some amazingly talented poets such as T.S. Eliot, Silvia Plath, Borges, Garcia Lorca and many many others but after the Beat Generation ended it seems overall there are just a mere handful of poets now living or dead  in comparison whose work and craft and the truth within it  all have truly earned the right to be called “Poets”.

So, where are all the new voices now?

We would like to read their words.

Start writing.




Why Is Contemporary American Poetry So Good?

Why Is Contemporary American Poetry So Good?



{NB: Below is my response, as a poet, to an article published earlier today in the Washington Post entitled “Why Is Modern Poetry So Bad?”, which itself was a response to an article published online last week, in the July 2013 issue of Harper’s, entitled “Poetry Slam (Or, the decline of American verse).” The first article can be found here; the second article can only be read online by subscribers to the magazine.}

Because there are exponentially more poets writing or committed to writing accomplished poetry today than has ever been the case in the history of the United States, either as a percentage of total population or as an absolute number. Because this means that, within the next few years, almost every American of a certain age will know or be related to someone who writes or is committed to writing accomplished poetry, which puts the workaday commitment to poetry so many Americans share front and center in the lives of millions and millions of Americans who are not poets.

Because there is more poetry being published today than has ever been published in the United States, because there are more print and online magazines publishing poetry, more trade and university and independent presses publishing poetry, more poetry reading series, more poetry anthologies, more poetry festivals, more private poetry groups, more poetry conferences, more articles written about poetry in major media, and more reviews of contemporary poetry collections than ever before, and this means Americans are as or more likely today than at any time in American history, in a culture as cluttered as any in the history of humankind, to come across exemplars of contemporary poetry willingly or inadvertently while going about their daily lives.

Because creative writing is the fastest-growing field of study in the United States, and the fact that there are now more than 250 terminal-degree graduate creative writing programs in the United States, graduating more than 2,200 committed poets each year and 22,000 each decade, means that more conversations about poetry are now happening in the United States than have ever happened, because the offline poetry conversations that have always been ubiquitous in bohemian enclaves are now joined by untold thousands of such conversations happening every semester on college and university campuses. Because the fact that there are so many graduate creative writing programs means that communities in which poetry is discussed between and among committed poets are now located in every state in America, rather than headquartered in just a small number of coastal redoubts. Because graduate creative writing programs are not run or staffed by doctorate-holders whose love of poetry is primarily academic and therefore esoteric in the view of the overwhelming majority of Americans, but rather by working poets whose love of the written word suffuses not only their on-campus dialogues about poetry, but also their off-campus dialogues and, because poetry invariably finds its way into all corners of every life that admits it, every interaction they have with friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances.

Because the fact that there are so many poets now writing in America in a committed way, and consequently so many discussions happening about poetry among those seriously committed to it, means that it is no longer possible to readily quantify the number of movements and enclaves in evidence on the landscape of American poetry, which is frustrating for popular magazine freelancers whose attention is fixed on poetry for but a few hours each year, and exhilarating for anyone who invests any reasonable period of time looking for new poetry. Because among the many movements and enclaves that tend to escape the attention of print media are those that do not use print as their primary medium, including “slam” poetry, which is performed in high-spirited competitions all across the country that are widely attended by college-age students, and visual poetry, which is as likely to be found in a museum or art gallery as an envelope mailed to the editorial offices of a popular magazine, and multimedia poetry, which includes poetry set to popular music and subsequently attached to professionally-produced music videos, as is the case with Michael Zapruder’s incomparable Pink Thunder. Because I attended and acted as judge at a slam poetry competition at Illinois Wesleyan University in 2011, and despite the tiny enrollment of the university the competition drew a crowd of more than a hundred students, students whose affection for poetry was evident in their wild applause and raucous laughter at so many of the lines of poetry delivered to them.

Because even poetry at the opposite end of the literary spectrum from slam poetry, that is, so-called Language or post-Language poetry, is now so admired by scholars and university students that they have developed a new and growing specialization within English departments to circumscribe its appreciation and study and criticism, denoted Contemporary Poetry Studies, and because increasingly graduate creative writing programs are acting as vehicles to inform young poets of the most innovative poetry being written today and to inspire them to write innovative poetry of their own. Because a forthcoming anthology, Best American Experimental Writing, the first ever annual anthology of experimental writing, will among other goals seek to create and encourage an even wider audience than this for superlatively innovative contemporary American verse. Because websites devoted to music criticism, like Pitchfork, now, for the first time in American history, make it their business to direct young music aficionados to albums featuring not just exemplary musicianship but also exemplary lyrics, such that artists like Joanna Newsom can release albums whose lyrics approach poetry and in so doing receive, as was never before possible, not just critical but also popular acclaim.

Because you cannot judge the poetry of any era on the basis of a case-by-case aesthetic analysis of its merits, not only because there is too much poetry written and published for any of it to be considered an exemplar of an era, not only because aesthetics is a subjective enterprise, but also because it is in the nature of aesthetics to evolve and thus for an innovative aesthetics to be underappreciated in its own time, because we do not know what poems being written today will be considered of enduring value in the distant future, because what is Great is Great almost exclusively in retrospect. Because the present older generation of poets developed something called “poetics,” which is more useful than aesthetics because it uncovers not merely what is visually and aurally pleasing in a poem but also how that poem does something with language no other artform could do, and because that’s wonderful, and because the present younger generation of poets has in response developed a means of analyzing poetry “horizontally,” that is, by attending not merely to how a poem reads but how it changes the lives and relationships and lives in poetry and relationships to poetry of those who read or hear that poem, and that’s wonderful also.

Because have you ever heard Matt Hart, Abraham Smith, Heather Christle, or Anthony Madrid read their poems out loud?

Because did you know you can probably find clips of them on YouTube?

Because have you ever read the poetry of Ariana Reines?

Because poets as a class of Americans are younger now, in terms of average age, than they’ve ever been before, because a lifetime in poetry is more readily visible to American youth today than ever before, because there are cultural institutions like graduate creative writing programs that let young people know that it’s okay to write poetry, that it’s not a sign of laziness or depression or schizophrenia and needn’t end in isolation or misery or homelessness in New York or getting disowned by your parents, because now poets support one another in a way that wasn’t possible when poets were more scattered and fewer in number, and because as a result of all these phenomena poets are better able and more willing now to integrate their poetry with technology, thus “returning art to the praxis of life” as the historical avant-gardes popular magazine freelancers sometimes laud liked to say. Because, that is, poets are finding ways to publish online, publish on YouTube, publish on Twitter, publish on Facebook, and thereby build virtual communities with one another and with others via all of these and many other social media websites.

Because most of the criticisms of poetry published in popular magazines involve consideration of only those poets presently winning prizes and receiving government-issued laurels and receiving tenure-track faculty positions, when even the most cursory review of literary history reveals that the most dynamic poetry is always being written by those our society in general and popular magazines in particular don’t take seriously and therefore don’t see and therefore disregard. Because one of the best things about those who slip through the cracks in American culture is that they tend to band together and find an uncommon strength in it, and the internet makes that more feasible than ever before, and the result of this slippage and banding and feasibility is that the average committed poet today does, in fact, have a broader base of real-time knowledge about what other young poets are concurrently writing than did the average committed poet of other eras, who were more likely to write in the sort of Romantic penury and isolation that produced Coleridge and Wordsworth and Byron but also a veritable horde of lesser poets we understandably no longer read, but less understandably fail to mention when we’re judging the poetry of that period. Because critics tend to make the same error in discussing poetry of other periods also.

Because other eras of literary production occurred against the backdrop of a very different America, a categorically less just America, and consequently the widely-read poetry of those previous eras contained an almost criminal dearth of poetry by female or black or Latino or gay or Jewish or immigrant or physically disabled or transgendered or imprisoned or transsexual or in-translation or gender-queer or lesbian or little person or working-class or Asian-American or Native American poets. Because we now have readers and reviewers and editors and publishers and anthologists alert to the unique and irreplaceable contributions made to poetry by members of America’s numberless subcommunities. Because no one ever turned away from poetry because they were friends with or smoked dope with or got drunk with or rapped about literature with someone who once upon a time received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry, whereas entire generations have been turned away from poetry by precisely the sort of canon-obsessed, aesthetics-oriented high school and college needling of individual poems deeded to us by those who now write articles decrying the present state of poetry.

Because we elected to office a man who writes poetry, reads poetry, and invites poets to his House to read their work. Because there are more scholarships and fellowships and grants supporting poets today than at any time in American history, though the number of such opportunities is still only a fraction of what we would expect to find in an advanced civilization. Because nearly every American university with an MFA program is attempting to do its part on this score by turning the once-nonterminal and only rarely funded creative writing Master of Fine Arts degree into a fully-funded terminal degree, because even academics are doing their part by creating an academic specialization called Creative Writing Studies and increasingly admitting MFA-holders to their doctoral programs, because the first-ever conference on critical creative writing pedagogy was held on June 21st of this year at Manhattanville College, because books on critical creative writing pedagogy began to enter the American market ten years ago and are now reaching an American readership more quickly and in greater number than ever before. Because poets have their own Amazon, and it’s called Small Press Distribution and it works as a business model in substantial part because contemporary poetry is so good and people therefore buy it and read it voraciously. Because Poets & Writers has a subscription base of 60,000 people and newsstand sales well beyond that, because the Poetry Foundation received a few years back the largest bequest in the history of American poetry, because the Association of Writers and Writing Programs has its largest membership ever and so many attendees to its annual conference that poets now take over one American city per year when they congregate for it, because poets no longer fawn over the Romantic ideal of genius and instead understand that genius is fundamentally a social rather than spiritual good.

Because the study of language and the human mind is so far advanced in our time, as compared to previous times, that entire bodies of poetry can claim to be informed by facts and figures and philosophies and reasoning of which our predecessors in poetry could only dream.

Because celebrities already rich and famous for skill-sets America actually values still dream of being poets when they go to sleep, and consequently publish books with silly titles like A Knight Without Armor and Blinking With Fists. Because I left a career in law to pursue poetry, and because the recent explosion in the number of low-residency MFA programs in the United States is explained by the fact that other attorneys and doctors and professionals of all stripes are now realizing that American culture can now accommodate, in a way it previously could not, the passions and ambitions of more than just its discrete bohemian class. Because the internet makes it possible for poets of every inclination and background to collaborate with one another without having to move from their current homes to the previously short but now ever-expanding list of locales capable of supporting real-time poetry communities. Because every poet you speak to could write their own list of reasons contemporary American poetry is so good, and it would be different from this one, but also similar, and equally true.

Because Americans are more attuned to international poetry than ever before, which brings America further than ever before into the international literary community, as evidenced by the volume of poetry in translation being published each month by small, independent, cash-strapped American publishers like Action Books. Because when I was invited to give a lecture at University of Amsterdam discussing the history of creative writing in the American university, I was addressed by Dutch students and faculty before, during, the after the lecture asking what they personally could do to bring more creative writing study to their university specifically and their country generally. Because in the Netherlands, as in America, we increasingly find young poets whose ambition is not merely to write poetry, not merely to edit magazines and anthologies, not merely to teach poetry to others, not merely to discuss poetry with strangers at whatever time and in whatever place, not merely to run poetry reading series and poetry festivals, not merely to publish poems and books, but to engage larger projects that they believe are likely to advance the cause of poetry in the United States. Because I am one of those people, because I am proud to be, because I will always be, because there are thousands of others like me and if you have not heard their voices yet, you will hear them soon.

Because none of the above reasons contemporary American poetry is so good in any way diminish or amend the many ways poetry itself has always been good for us, and good to us, because contemporary American poetry nourishes and enlivens and congregates and educates and in some cases even saves us the very same way poetry has always done for those with the willingness to stop speaking and listen.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Seth Abramson is the author of three collections of poetry: Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013), winner of the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize; Northerners (Western Michigan University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Poetry & Prose; and The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). A contributing author to The Creative Writing MFA Handbook (Continuum, 2008) and a regular contributor to both Poets & Writers and Indiewire, he is also Series Co-Editor for Best American Experimental Writing, whose first edition will be published by Omnidawn in 2014. Presently a doctoral candidate (ABD) in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has published work in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press, 2008), Poetry of the Law (University of Iowa Press, 2010), Poetry, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, New American Writing, Harvard Review, AGNI, Fence, and Colorado Review. In 2008, he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry.



This is a great and hopeful view of the current state of American poetry in the 21st century. We have an amazing amount of literary talent and younger writers as well as poets however there are still many problems with poets (academic and otherwise) in regards to the way we view poetry and with the current state of what is considered poetry or actual writing. Good writing and poetics here in the United States as well as everywhere else must be more appreciated and poets must regain their lost ground and status. For far too long now we have had academics as well as other institutions supporting and creating “Slams” in the hopes of courting younger audiences and students instead of actually presenting poetry as the craft and art that it is. Slam has become “The McDonald’s Of Poetry” for over 25 years now and if anything we need to move on past the stereotypes created by this genre and move forward in support of other styles and find new voices. 

Yes, Seth is absolutely right “Poetry Does Save Us” but it must also be able to evolve and grow past it’s current forms like any other art.

~ R.M.

Where Is American Poetry Going?




What recent trends in American poetry do you find troubling or worrisome?

Aliki Barnstone: I find poetry wars troublesome. These particular issues of aesthetics should not divide poets. I find the polarization simplistic and limiting to anyone who takes on the label “formalist” or “experimentalist.” The imagination must be free to go anywhere and should not be compelled to follow someone else’s dictates. Furthermore, I find that American poetry wars are American in the worst possible way, and repeat the puritan history of demonizing those who prefer not to conform. The notion, which I’ve heard laid down as a prescription, that the self and identity should be abolished in favor of collectivism is extremely alarming to me, since the implication is that any kind of ethnic, racial, gender, or national identity is suspect.

John Bradley: The appointment of Dana Gioia to head the National Endowment of the Arts signals that, once again, artists will be under pressure to purge their work of all social commentary.

Nick Carbo: The backlash against ethnic poets and the complaint that some poems are “too ethnic.”

Brian Clements: Trends among the poems themselves are never worrisome to me. We’re all going to follow our individ- ual obsessions anyway, so why bother worrying about it? Don’t get me started on what bugs me about the businesses of pub- lishing, awards, and academic hiring. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with poetry, or does it?

Jon Davis: The ongoing wheezing and creaking that once called itselflanguage poetry istroubling, as is the postmod- ern shrug in all of its guises—irony, flippancy, loss of self, etc. But the most troubling ongoing trend is the slam, bout, per- formance nexus, particularly when it marches the young onto the stage with nothing but venom, broad gestures, and a head full of hackneyed abstractions and then rewards them with applause. The pleasure of such instantaneous acclaim so eas- ily bought is piping our talented youth into the hills away from the village of study, hard work, and accomplishment. It strikes me as a new species of child abuse.

Annie Finch: The swallowing of respected trade publishers by megapublishers with no commitment to literary books, and the resulting neglect of poetry reviews in mainstream publications available to general audiences.

Sam Hamill: Too much solipsism, too much fragmented work of mere sensibility, too much safely comfortable apolitical poetry that accepts no serious consequence or responsibility.

Paul Hoover: I don’t find much that is worrisome in poetry; it’s the political life of the country that scares me.

John Hoppenthaler: What troubles me the most is the wave of generally young (but not always) poets who feel compelled to con- tinue a petty and gratuitous argument for some “experimental” mode of poetry over what they insist is a dull period-style poetics formed in academic workshops. This strikes me as the worst sort of antidemocratic (not to mention simpleminded and arrogant) argument to demonize a style that doesn’t suit one in order to val- orize another that does. And this does cut both ways, with pro- moters of a more direct style belittling those who are trying something different. We need to think in terms of “poetries” rather than poetry, which will make the neighborhood a better, richer place to live.

Peter Johnson: The continuing saga of the poet-as-celebrity; superficial pleasantness driven by fear and careerism; the triumph of the prose poem.

George Kalamaras: I find troubling a continuing distrust of imaginative and surrealist poetries, as well as a seemingly strict adherence to more strictly defined genres in which genre-bending forms like the prose poem are often suspect.

Christine Boyka Kluge: Although entertaining, the growing number of poems using excessive wordplay and cleverness as a sub- stitute for ideas seem shallow to me.

Martin Lammon: Although it’s not such a recent trend any- more, I’m still troubled by poets who call for a “return to verse,” or other such slogans. The “New Formalism,” or whatever other term one wants to use, essentially describes a reactionary impulse, a desire to return to a “golden age” of poetry that never was. There are poems by Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop that I love, but their poems do not represent some poetic principle or aesthetic that contemporary poets should emulate, as some would propose. If a poet today chooses to write so-called formal “verse,” that’s fine. There’s room enough for aesthetic choices. But one choice cannot preclude all the other paths that poets may fol- low.

Dana Levin: A focus on language-making and virtuoso vocab- ulary at the expense of having something to say, along with “con- fessional” being a dirty word, especially as “confessional” seems to have become a synonym for “emotional.”

Morton Marcus: I’m still deeply disturbed by the solipsistic trends in American poetry, where the poet writes, it seems, to tickle and entertain his mind. Video games for the literati. Where’s the earthiness, the visionary, the need to speak of the deep winds, both dark and light, that roar around the heart with the voices of our ancestors?

Jim Moore: Poems that seem to have no purpose other than to demonstrate their own ingenuity.

Richard Robbins: The exaggerated “centrality” of language poetry created by the Iowa/Harvard critical axis. Most of that stuff is what Richard Hugo used to call “a lot of over-worrying about the obvious.” The ever-expanding gulf created between community reading series (reasonably affordable means of allowing the public to access the literary arts) and the celebrity tours (with restricted public access and skyrocketing fees sent even higher by celebrity literary agents). The growing assumption that poetry publishing is not an enterprise supported by entities that take economic risks on manuscripts they believe in, but rather that poetry publishing is more like the NCAA basketball tourney pool, where all with man- uscripts will enter with a $10 fee and one will come away with the prize.

Katharine Soniat: How many of the “contests” and presses are focusing on incoherent language or experimental poetry seems to be the same judge (of this persuasion) for many national contests.

Virgil Suarez: The elitists are still elitists.

Thom Ward: How to get other human beings who are, in William Stafford’s phrase, “awake people” to wake up to reading and listening to more contemporary American poetry and poetry in translation. The good folks who attend local theater, art muse- ums, and jazz clubs, who take that occasional pottery class at the YMCA—how do we get more of these people (who have no ambi- tion to become poets) more interested in buying contemporary poetry books and literary journals and attending poetry readings, especially by “emerging” or “unknown” poets? Why do so few of these “awake people,” who speak intelligently about contempo- rary music and the visual arts, know and care so little about poetry?

Matthew Zapruder: A period style that consists of requisite ambiguity, complexity, genuflection to tired principles of post- modernism, and mystification, all of which cover up a lack of genuine commitment to an idea or emotion; a creeping profes- sionalization, especially among younger poets.





Ray González is TBR’s poetry editor.

Note: This is part 2 of a survey; part 1 will be found in the March/April issue of TBR, Vol. 24, #3 2004.

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.



Poet R.M. Engelhardt finds hope in words ~ Times Union 3/14/13


Poet R.M. Engelhardt finds hope in words

Engelhardt expresses hope in power of language

By Amy Biancolli Published 2:11 pm, Wednesday, March 13, 2013


The poems of R.M. Engelhardt don’t assert faith in much. Not religion. Not a society that ignores the plight of the downtrodden while glorifying the rich.

As he writes in “Burn,” a reflection on a homeless man in winter that appears in his 13th book, “The Resurrection Waltz”: “…the george bailey in / this story has no clarence.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” this isn’t.

But the works of this longtime Albany poet holds some faith in a few things. Late-life love, for a start. (“…happiness/That came later/and not sooner“). Smoking, too; he did, after all, title his 2006 book of collected works “The Last Cigarette.” “This is actually part of who I am in general. I’m smoking now as we speak,” he said, chatting on the phone recently.

But he has faith in something else, too: poetry. In “Saint Poem,” he addresses the form itself as a carrier of grace or salvation. “Dear Poem/Saint Poem/I ask you/To please see us through yet another day,” he pleads, coming around to a state of exhausted resignation. Both the faith and the exhaustion pop up throughout “The Resurrection Waltz” (Infinity Publishing), an 82-page tract of succinctly expressed disgruntlement flecked with hope.

“Poetry is very much like a religion. I wouldn’t say my complete religion,” he said. Nevertheless, “It’s the poem that saves you. You write the poem, but it’s catharsis, and what’s what brings you into being — what makes you stable, balanced.”

Engelhardt will read and sign copies of “The Resurrection Waltz,” from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

On April 11, he’ll kick off his School of Night open mic, to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the Pearl Street Pub/Dirty Martini Lounge. And then, on April 19, he plans to read at the open mic as part of 2013 Albany Word Fest, set to run from April 14 to 20.

He dates his interest in poetry to childhood, when he composed a myth about a forged Bronze Warrior that wowed his sixth-grade teacher. His appreciation for the power of words never waned. Now a deep-rooted fixture on the poetry landscape, Engelhardt runs open mics, edits a journal (“The Literary Rogue”) and, in 2000, founded the Albany Poets collective ( A year later, he started the Word Fest.

“He’s been around for a long, long time, and he’s the one that took me under my wing when I was in high school almost 20 years ago. And he’s always trying to innovate and come up with ways to get new people involved,” said Thom Francis, current president of Albany Poets. As for Engelhardt’s writing, “It’s very personal, and yet sometimes spiritual. And you know, it runs the gamut.”

Engelhardt is not a fan of slams — open mics with a competitive format. “You have people judging the work of new poets, people who have never read before. So the problem is people are just getting out — they’re discovering their authentic voices, and they’re being judged by people. I don’t believe that poetry should be judged.”

He draws his inspiration from a variety of sources. One is the woman in his life, Kali De La Cruz, the photographer (credited as Lona Cygnus), who designed the cover for “The Resurrection Waltz.”

Another is the city of Albany, where his family goes back six generations. After a stint in the Florida Keys some years back, he returned with a newfound appreciation for Albany’s creative vibe.

“It’s the place itself,” he said. “It has a great poetry and literary scene — a great writing scene — it has a great music scene, a great arts scene. And if you can’t find inspiration in that, well, you’re in the wrong place.”

What about those cigarettes? Can someone be a poet without smoking? “If it’s for them, sure,” he said. Then he clarified: “If they’re a nonsmoking poet.” • 518-454-5439

At a glance R.M. Engelhardt

What: Reading and signing of “Resurrection Waltz,” new book by Albany poet When: 7-9 p.m. today, March 14

Where: The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave. Info: 489-4761;