There are some great events in life that no amount of words, however eloquent, can ever do justice.  They include 9/11, Woodstock, the assassination of Kennedy, the Civil Rights march on Washington with Dr. King, the first man on the moon, the atom bomb blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the “impeachment” of Monica Lewinsky’s dress by William Jefferson Clinton.  One such event, from a purely poeticentric 21st century perspective, occurred on Thursday 10 July 2008 at the Literary Cafe in Cleveland’s storied Tremont district.

Poetry night!
First of all, they had beer (as well as an assortment of other icy beverages, alcoholic and non) – reason(s) enough for many folks to declare the Literary Cafe “the most refreshing poetry venue since Sappho recited her poems nude on the steps of the Parthenon while drinking fermented Greek grape juice.”  That’s not totally fair, though.  Lots of other fine venues serve liquor.  But booze and butts aside, no venue I know of possesses the unique, multi-dimensional allure of Cleveland’s “Lit” (as the joint is affectionately known).

For one thing, none but the Lit has emcee Nick “Give it the fuck up” Traenkner:

Poetry magazine was there to pic Nick – but I got my shot in first

Secondly, no other venue has ornery organizer Steve “the black beret” Goldberg playing jolly earnest smart fun foil to Nick’s beautiful bullshit brilliance.  Forget Abbott and Costello.  Nick and Steve are the top-shelf comedic dynamic duo of the 21st century.  They also write some sensational poetry.

Nick and Steve star in Duelling Poetry, seeing who can push who off stage

Now you know where I got the soul patch thingie under my bottom lip – or where Steve got his.  We might actually have come up with that same look independently – but it’s more fun to think he stole it from me.

Another great thing about Steve Goldberg is that he scours cool poetry spots across the universe and finds the best talent possible to feature at the Literary Cafe.  On the second Thursday of every month, this place has two featured readers you MUST hear if you give a damn about poetry – and July was no exception. 

First came the stunning, wise-beyond-her-years supernova of the Cleveland poetry scene known as T.M. Göttl. 

T.M. in contemplation before the show

I’d seen her at a couple of open mics before and was struck by the honesty, sensitivity and passion in her poetry and performances.  So I was very much looking forward to this featured reading and the chance to hear more than just two or three of her pieces.  To me, the Literary Cafe is not a venue for either the faint of heart or the faint of art – and T.M. delivered both heart and art mightily.   My favorite piece was probably her second “Confessions.”

T.M. Göttl channels the spirit of pure poetry to a packed Lit crowd

One of the many reasons it’s taken me so long to write this blog: I’ve been caught up reading her recent book Stretching the Window (available at, where you can also read her superb “Searching for the Big Skies”).  I could write a whole lotta fine words (all totally true) about her book – but if I go there, I’ll never finish this blog… lol.  So please buy it and find out for yourself.

I was also very much looking forward to meeting and hearing the night’s second featured reader, David Smith.  As most of my longtime readers know, last year I several times achieved the dubious distinction of having a number one blog on MySpace (before deciding to create my own website here).  It’s quite a bit easier to reach those heights if you regularly visit a wide variety of other people’s blogs (because those folks tend to reciprocate).  Out of the hundreds of very good blogs I’ve subscribed to on MySpace and elsewhere, one of my very favorites is written by California’s Handsome Duke Deal (a.k.a. David Smith).  His poetic blogs are as bright and bold as they come, and you really oughta check them out.

David deftly blends weighty and worldly wordscapes with existential wit

He started his Lit reading with an evocative new poem inspired by this visit, “Cleveland Nocturne” (which you can read by clicking here).  David brought a very good poet from Toledo named John Dorsey on stage for an intense piece.  Then he took us on a captivating journey around the world by way of Auschwitz (with his “tongue in the orifice of your choice”) through his powerful and profound “Genocide Sutra: A Love Poem.”  Whoa!…  (A signed broadside of David’s “Sutra” with magnificent artwork by S.A. Griffin is available for $3.00 from Rose of Sharon Press, POB 29171, Los Angeles, CA 90029-0171.  It’s a must-read.)

David Smith prepares to toast our city with his “Cleveland Nocturne”

After the two fine features, we were treated to an amazing ménage of more than twenty open mic poets, including some of the cream of the Cleveland literary crop.  Many of them I’d heard before and was excited to see again; but I found it particularly thrilling to see several poets whose works I’ve loved on the printed page though I’d never experienced their poetry read live.  These included Loren Weiss, Russ Vidrick, Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger.  I’d just read Salinger’s Stingray and Neon collections a month or so ago and let me tell you – he’s one of the best you’ll find anywhere.  But as fantastic as his poems are on the printed page, his vivid performances make them even better.  Of course they waited until I went into the other room to get my wife and myself a refill before calling Salinger to the stage – so I had to watch him with my head twisted around the corner of the doorway.  But wow….

Michael Salinger gives it the fuck up (as Nick would say)

There were also quite a few good poets with whose work I’d been unacquainted.  And some good poets I had heard and read before were there that night to watch and listen but chose not to read.  I really want to talk about everyone, because to not do so means leaving out some incredibly cool stuff.  But I also have almost a hundred pictures of the night – and I don’t want to make this blog so long that people are deterred from reading the whole thing.  And like I said (and you thought I was bullshitting), this was one of those events that no amount of words, however eloquent, can ever do justice.

Perhaps I should mention what I did at the open mic – since somebody’s bound to ask.
I performed a medley of two Gas Hike Coup, my poem Rapists, and my Mary Cheney rap.

And now, without further ado, let me end this blog with some photos from the event.  I’m not positive about every name, so feel free to correct me if I screw something up.

I couldn’t wait for the show to begin [photo by Geri]

Jack McGuane talks up the crowd

Geri Crisis (my Mrs.) at the table with me

Claire McMahon, co-editor of MoonLit

Christopher Franke, author of =5

Steve Goldberg, cross-legged on the floor

Miles Budimir

Kathy and Steve Smith enjoy David Smith’s performance

John Dorsey feelin’ the vibe

Ray McNiece has instrument, will travel

Loren Weiss

Jesus Crisis borrows Loren’s shirt (not really) and takes a deep breath [photo by Geri]

Me waxing televangelistic with the hair [photo by Geri]

Dianne Borsenik

Christopher Franke

Kathy Ireland Smith of

Steven B. Smith, mastermind behind ArtCrimes

Kimberley Diamond Bones

Steve reads his daughter Milana’s poem wearing an art shirt

C. Randolph C. (at least that’s I wrote down when he was introduced!)

Sara Holbrook and Ray McNiece serve up a tasty poetic duet

Billy Nardi

Michael Salinger

Nick’s neck

Carmen Tracey, poetic tsunami

Dominique, who performed a stunning operatic aria

Kathy Smith and Danilee Eichhorn

Russ Vidrick

Steve Thomas

Dianne Borsenik and Chris Franke

Nick and Steve drop their pants and show off their assets
marking the hind end of the open mic and the start of a poetic free-for-all

Matthew McNamara, before he was tackle-hugged by Steve Goldberg

Mrs. Crisis and Dianne Borsenik

John Dorsey

Matthew McNamara and Steve Goldberg

Keisha Davenport and Neve Black didn’t end up reading
(note Lit proprietor Andy working his magic behind the scenes)

T.M. Göttl

Jack McGuane

Steven B. Smith

Kathy Smith and Kimberley Diamond Bones

Nick Traenkner says sayonara from the Literary Cafe

To view ALL my photos from that night, check out my “Cleveland Poetry” Photobucket album here:

Proprietor Andy Timithy takes photos (and video) of these events as well (and you might say does a far better job than I).  Please check out his flickr album from July tenth’s festivities here:

And his video recordings of the night’s highlights are available on the Literary Cafe’s blog:

T.M. Göttl’s featured reading:

David Smith’s featured reading:

Other assorted short clips:

Now go buy T.M. Göttl’s and David Smith’s poetry!  I mentioned how to do so somewhere up there.

* * *

And books by some of the other poets I’ve mentioned are available through
Gotta pimp ’em because they’re good and because a percentage of every purchase helps me afford to maintain this website….



You, too, can be part of the fun that happens every second Thursday at the Literary Cafe.  Just show up!  It’s that simple….  No cover charge….  Cheap drinks….  Nice, interesting folks….  And lots of fun and fantastic poetry.

Thursday 14 August 2008 from 9:30 pm to 1:00 am, don’t miss featured readers David Hassler and Michelle Krivanek.  And if you have your own work to share during the open mic, bring it on….  The bar opens at 8:30.

The Literary Cafe
1031 Literary Rd.
Cleveland, Ohio

Here’s a map:

And if you’re really feeling froggy, beg Steve to give Jesus Crisis a shot at doing a featured reading.

Peace, love and poetry,

a.k.a. Jesus Crisis