November 26, 2018

Community of Writers, November 18

Perhaps the longest running series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild is the “Community of Writers” readings, this one held each year in November at the Schenectady County Public Library. The host today was Schenectady-poet-about-town, Alan Catlin, & there were 6 writers in a variety of genres.

The afternoon began with Mary Cuffe Perez who read from her collection of stories of her neighbors in rural Galway, NY, Barn Stories: Reflections from a Saratoga County Horse Farm (North Country Books, 2017). What she read was an hysterical tale of 2 brothers, combative, inept & ultimately lazy, titled “Butch & Wally’s Used Ladder World.” It was a light -hearted way to start the event.

Sarah Giragosian, I must admit, is one of my favorite “new” poets; she has been the featured reader at my Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany. Her 2017 book from Dream Horse Press, Queer Fish, won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize & she began with a selection of poems from it, including “The Decorator Crab,” “The Anglerfish Finds Her Muse,” “All at Sea,” “When the Horseshoe Crab Grieves,” & “King of Saxony Bird of Paradise.” She also has a new book pending from Black Lawrence Press, The Death Spiral, from which she read the title poem & “The Second Moon Colony Won’t Fail.” Her poems deal with love & relationships, often in the context of the environmental crises of climate change.

Some folks may recognize the name Wanda Fischer as the host of the WAMC folk music program “The Hudson River Sampler,” but she is also the author of a novel, Empty Seats (Spring Training Media, 2017). An avid baseball fan since a child, she once announced a full baseball game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox & the Twins in 2012. Her novel follows a couple of young minor league players through a season, & she read from the opening chapter, “Two Jimmys” & another brief section she called “Cookies.”

Back to poetry, next was another of my long-time favorite local poets Jill Crammond, who read a selection of poems that she says she writes in the voice of Mary (the mother of Jesus), Barbie or from the voices in her head. From a series she calls “The Queen of Resurrection” she read a piece titled “Gone Missing.” Inspired by Joyce Carol Oates’ book Black Water about the Edward Kennedy/Mary Jo Kopechne tragedy in July 1969, Jill also read a poem in the voice of Ms. Kopechne.

The only male reader followed, Rich Holt, a former teacher at Niskayuna High School & Schenectady County Community College. He read from his memoir in poetry & prose, As After Sunset Fadeth in the West published by The Troy Book Makers just this year. He got emotional reading a section about the boarding house his mother ran when he was still in school, describing his relationship, or shall we say crush, with a young woman tenant/guest; & he continued with a few poems also on the theme of memoir.

We began with humor & we ended with humor. Although I’ve read many pieces by Jo Page in the Albany Times Union & the former Metroland I believe this is the first time I’ve actually heard her read. And although she lives in Schenectady, & is a pastor of a Lutheran congregation here, she said this was the first time she has read in Schenectady from her book Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor (State University of New York Press, 2016). She read from the chapter “Happy Christians” about an encounter with a woman while waiting for a school concert to begin in which the woman, unaware that the person she was speaking to was a pastor, babels on about the early Christian Church, while the author comments in funny, ironic & self-critical asides.

& did I mention that in addition to the varied & refreshing readings there were some luscious sweets & other refreshments to make the afternoon even more enjoyable? The combination of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & the Schenectady County Public Library & the Friends made for a pleasant literary afternoon. For more information on either or both check out &

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