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.
Whenever history needs inspiration it might just return again .
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 www.newversemovement.com 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.