Poet Revisits Glens Falls
by Martin Moynihan
1944, the war was raging and LOOK Magazine wanted to
take a close-up look at the home front. They chose Glens Falls
for what would be a six-part community profile called “Hometown,
name stuck for decades, if only among local boosters. Now it lives
again as the title of a volume of poetry by a Glens Falls native
born the year after the magazine article was published.
a teenager, Michael (Mick) Cleary won the Glens Falls Writers
Club award for a short story the same year he quarterbacked the
St. Mary’s Academy football team to the first of two undefeated
as a father of two, a scholar with Ph.D., professor of English
at Broward Community College in Florida, Cleary has published
his first volume of poetry, a bittersweet collection of verse
spiked with humor, much of it about the experience of growing
up in a specific small city in the 1950s and ‘60s.
the LOOK series spent much time pondering the future
of the town, Cleary said his book “was my way of saying
this is my view of what did happen.” He called it
“sort of like ‘Hometown, USA’ Redux.”
book contains numerous recollections of growing up in a small
community—(“The iceman, ragman, Freihofer Bakeryman—those
were the last horses on city streets”) but it is far from
being a warm piece of nostalgia.
one of his poems, he catalogs local place names—Battleground
Park, Million Dollar Beach, Kaatskill Bay—and wild nicknames
of high school pals—Monk, Skunk, Bat, Tarzan, Boom-Boom,
I want to cup in my hands,
offer up to the common world
we took for granted, ordinary lives
they might just as well been blessed.
the end of his longest poem, “Halfway Brook,” he writes
of early post-World War II years, and reflects:
lives seemed endless,
the sunblessed hours
of long summer days.
More patient than winter,
Cold War waited
our turn to come out and play.
That one is dedicated to the memory of four friends and teammates,
local soldiers who were killed during the Vietnam War.
had been submitting his poetry to national competitions for years,
practically since the time he decided to practice what he had
been teaching in his creative writing classes. But it was not
until he packaged his work as Hometown, USA—including
copies of text and photos from the LOOK series—that
he won the 1992 American Book Series Award. Run by the San Diego
Poets Press, the series annually publishes the winning collection
from over 600 entrants.
feel good it was chosen by a press in California and I’m
in Florida and it’s about New York,” Cleary said.
“I think it says something about the work. It isn’t
something published about Glens Falls only for people in Glens
Cleary, it says that his writings embrace a spectrum of modern
American themes, including in his case, “reconciliation
with my father, violence in society, girls and boys, and so forth.”