Glens Falls, NY
Attends Michael Cleary
Reading at the Hyde
Falls native Michael Cleary returned home to give a poetry reading
Sunday afternoon before a Hyde Collection crowd so large that
some people were seated on the stage.
was the first public reading from Cleary’s new published
volume, Hometown, USA, whose title
is taken from the LOOK Magazine series about Glens Falls
in 1944, a year before he was born.
1963 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy, Cleary moved out of
the area in 1975 after teaching for seven years at Queensbury
High. He has since become a bald and gray-bearded English professor
at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with
a long list of publication credits.
“relieved” his life, to borrow his five year-old son’s
unintentional pun, and provided us with a precise and vivid picture
of his family and experiences. Often he softened his seriousness
thunk that I’d be in the Hyde Museum?” he joked at
the outset, recalling his paper route through the neighborhood
surrounding the Glens Falls art museum.
of his poems, “Kill All the Poets,” was an admonition
not to take himself too seriously. It considered the irony of
his not spending time with his young son so that he could write
a poem and “relieve” his own childhood.
of Cleary’s poems begin with epigraphs, short prefaces by
which he incorporates quotes from other sources that inspired
of his most graphic poems, “At Mud Lake in the Morning,”
results from a newspaper account from which he quotes in the epigraph.
It was also, incidentally, his first published poem and has since
been included in a St. Martin’s Press anthology that also
features poems by such luminaries as Robert Frost, Shelley, and
Lake” tells the story of a town overpopulated by rabbits.
Men and boys remedy the situation by going out and clubbing the
rabbits to death. Graphic, the poem depicts the frenzy of “churning
snow into a crazy quilt/of scarlet specks and patches of deeper
red.” It makes us feel the violent longing of boys experiencing
the “thrill of wood on bone.”
of Cleary’s work deals with water. “Colossus, Wobbling”
recounts the amazing ability of his father to stay under water
for long periods. This was a source of anxiety for Cleary as a
boy, and we shared his relief and joy when his father surfaced
like a colossus and “thumped waves of beerbelly laughter
all the way to shore.”
were poems about logging, ice ponds, sexuality, and growing up;
there were poems about babies, close relatives, his mother and
stepfather; and there was the poignant, “My Father’s
Room,” which told of his father after his lobotomy.
worked well at recreating sound, as in “January Crossing,
Lake Champlain.” He made us feel the extremes of hot and
cold, as in “The Sunshine State.” He vividly portrayed
the color and activity of men working on “Hovey’s
he sensitively evoked the intimacy of family life, as in “The
Graduate Student Learns, in Spite of Books.” With his art,
Cleary was able to share significant moments in his life which
he described in one poem as “a dream you don’t dare
whose mother and step-father, Betty and Mike Sovetts, still live
in Glens Falls, obviously made a lot of friends in his years here,
judging by the warm, overflow audience. When the poet autographed
copies of his book after the reading, the line stretched all the
way to the back of the Froelich Auditorium.