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HOMETOWN, USAThe Chronicle
Glens Falls, NY

Florida Prof to Publish Glens Falls Poems

by Linda Ellingsworth


Michael Cleary is an English professor in Florida, but his first book of poems, due out this Fall, is called Hometown, USA.

It’s not as surprising as it might sound. Cleary’s collection of poems chronicles the post-war Glens Falls which he experienced growing up here.

Cleary earned publication of his book by winning an annual competition, the American Book Series Award. “Poetry’s hard to get published; it’s very competitive,” he comments. His work was one in a field of over 600 submissions. Publisher will be San Diego Poets Press.

A 1963 graduate of S. Mary’s Academy, Cleary was better known as a “jock” than a scholar, playing quarterback on the school’s first undefeated football team. When he won first place in the Glens Falls Writers’ Club fiction competition, he laughs that people were surprised “that I might have a brain in my head.”

Cleary’s book, punctuated with photos from LOOK Magazine’s 1944 “Hometown, USA” series, offers glimpses into Glens Falls past and present. Memories of skating on Crandall Pond, the overpowering nostalgia of his St. Mary’s 25th class reunion, and a vision of men harvesting ice on Hovey’s Pond share the pages with loggers and childhood friends.

The cover will feature Shirley Patton’s nostalgic painting of Glen Street.

In conjunction with publication, he plans a reading on November 10 at the Hyde Collection. Cleary feels people will enjoy his work, commenting that “it’s more accessible than what people are used to” in the poetry field.

In his poem, “Class Reunion,” Cleary describes the bittersweet renewal of old friendships:

Even the best of us
have a bone to pick
with the ghost of days gone by.
Familiar stories mingle with new lies.
Former lovers blush,
barely touch, smiles aching
with betrayal and regret.

Although Cleary says he came to poetry “rather late,” he has had success publishing individual poems in literary journals. He says it was especially gratifying last year when one of his poems made it into an anthology used at the college level, Literature: The Human Experience (St. Martin’s Press). “It’s a first for somebody without a book,” he says, noting his work will now appear alongside that of Hemingway, Shakespeare and others.

Encouragement from other writers at conferences and winning the Florida Arts Council Grant for Poetry two years ago prompted Cleary to persevere with his writing. “It gave me the sense that I was competing well,” he explains.

As for his next project, it will probably just “slowly evolve,” he feels. In the meantime, he says, “I hope the book will find some success.”

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