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A Taste of Slam

‘We were a little nervous about reading here,” Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz told the crowd last Thursday (April 3) at the Frequency North event in the College of Saint Rose’s Neil Hellman library. “Usually our audiences are a little more drunk.”

This may have been a mite disingenuous coming from a poet whose bio includes “extended residency in Australia” and a “commission for the New York Chamber Dance ballet company,” not to mention founding and hosting the three-time national champion NYC-Urbana slam poetry team. Then again, it might not. The CBGBs basement, where Urbana used to make its home before it moved to the ever-swank (in a gritty poetry kind of way) Bowery Poetry Club, is certainly no brightly-lit college library.

Nonetheless, Aptowicz and her partner in life and poetry, Shappy Seasholtz, are skilled writers and performers, and they had no trouble captivating (and sending into hysterics) the audience at the final installment of this season’s well-regarded and “aggressively eclectic” Frequency North reading series. Professor Dan Nester, who curates the series, was clearly excited for the show as he bounced around seating people (the audience overflowed to the balcony); he paused in his introduction after listing Shappy’s award-winning book Little Book of Ass, to grin and say “I love my job.”

Slam (competitive poetry in which random judges from the audience give a poem a 1 to 10 score) tends to generate intense, clever poems that get a quick rise from listeners, and it is perhaps little wonder that the Saint Rose sound techs found themselves having to continually turn their speakers down throughout the evening.

Aptowicz opened with a piece about rejecting the corporate job hunt to become a full-time writer. You could feel the seniors in the room shift uncomfortably as she listed the indignities of the job search process, culminating in “You made me buy pantyhose.” But the room was happily in on the joke when she launched into a literary-reference-packed take down of a former scientist boyfriend who deemed “literature” not important enough to bother with. “Go Plath yourself” may be one of the most memorable lines, which she used as a segue into a meditation on famous women poets who committed suicide.

Shappy opened with his trademark ode to nerd power, “I Am That Nerd” (“I didn’t come here to chitchat, I came here to role play.”), compared George Bush to the evil emperor in Star Wars, and gave voice to the voiceless (zombies that is). He also offered up “The Infinite Darkness,” which everyone over the age of 17 who’s still writing bombastic, navel-gazing “deep abyss of my soul” poems should be forced to listen to on repeat.

It’s just a guess, but those students who were explaining to a friend unenthusiastically, “Poetry reading. For class credit,” as they entered the building probably ended up as glad they went as I was.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Man on the Spot

Last Friday night (April 4), bioartist and U.S. government legal target Steve Kurtz spoke in conjunction with a screening of the film about his case, Strange Culture, at Christ Church United Methodist in Troy. Of course, he couldn’t talk about the specifics of the case at this event, sponsored RPI’s BioArt Initiative and the still-homeless Sanctuary for Independent Media. The film had to “do the talking.”





Art Beat

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES If it’s a satirical performance-lecture paired with a 3-D video installation, you know we’re talking about an event at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This week, EMPAC is hosting U.K. artists Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie. The video installations, which will be up in RPI’s Greene Gallery from noon to 6 PM beginning Tuesday (April 15) and ending April 19, are Men in the Wall and In the Flesh. The former features four men “in a sequence of poems, jokes, songs, flamenco—and naps,” while the latter is a 3-D image of a dancer in action that, we are told, seems pretty real when you slap on the 3-D glasses. Aggiss’ performance piece, Hi Jinx, will be presented Tuesday (April 15) at 8 PM in RPI’s Academy Hall. All events are free. For more info, call 276-3921.

FILMS IN THE NORTH COUNTRY Thanks to digital HD equipment (and a surround-stereo-sound system), the Charles R. Wood Theater (207 Glen St., Glens Falls) has joined the ranks of regional venues offering notable independent cinema where it was, previously, mostly unavailable. In cooperation with New York City’s Emerging Pictures, the Wood will begin a spring cinema series tomorrow (Friday, April 11) at 7 PM with Romulus My Father, an Australian-outback family drama starring Eric Bana. Upcoming movies include Fired (April 19), Sacco and Venzetti (April 20), Duchess of Langeais (May 14), Paranoid Park (May 25), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (May 26) and The Witnesses (May 28). All shows start at 7 PM, and admission to each is $6. For more info, visit

ANOTHER LOCAL PREMIERE This is the time of year when the Hollywood studios tend to release the, let us say, less compelling new movies. The Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany) have been breaking these seasonal doldrums with documentaries like The Singing Revolution, and, starting Friday (April 11), Holly, an indie drama about child-sex trafficking in Cambodia starring Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Chris Penn (his last film). Screenwriter-producer Guy Jacobson will be on hand for a Q & A after each Friday screening. Check this week’s movie schedule for show times.

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE Troy Night Out, the organization that runs the monthly shindig of revelry and art held the last Friday evening of every month in downtown Troy, is running a Vacant Storefront Artist Project. This is because, of course, Troy has a number of vacant storefronts that could use a bit of dressing up. They are looking for artists to fill these spaces, which will “vary every month and are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.” You can download the application form at www.troynight

—Shawn Stone

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