I don’t know how it exactly happened, but for some reason I fell asleep for three days and just came to consciousness last night.  I was playing softball with other recovering people on Friday last week when the temperature hovered around 93 degrees.  I ran a lot, hit the ball when I could, and played second base while most of the ground balls were hit hard to the short-stop.  I made a few errors in the field that day, and I didn’t expect that anything was too wrong with me, but when I fell a sleep on Friday night, I could not drag myself out of bed for the next several days.  Apparently, it may have been caused by a spider that bit me in the middle of the night – an itchy bump that I still have on my finger, or better yet, I must have fallen victim to heat exhaustion along with the spider bite.  But last night I pulled an all-nighter to argue with my poet-friends here at the NSI in Albany, and now I’m feeling much more alive and awake, but a little manic and psychotic so early in the morning.  It’s a really wierd feeling being awake all night and then greeting the day with a repaired sleep cycle.  I used to pull all-nighters in high school and college all the time, as I feel most creative in the dead silence that only the middle of the night can offer.  I did get a lot of work done, such as revising a manuscript and sending out emails, but there is still a lot more to be done – but no time restrictions on getting it done.  Such is the life of someone who doesn’t work in the job market.  I’m open 24/7, and I work on the writing as much as I possibly can.

Tonight, however, is another Writers Institute night up in Saratoga – this time with Rossana Warren who is a poet, and Margot Livesy who is a novelist.  I guess I’m attending this reading, because back in the late 1990s, Margot Livesy, I believe, was the writer-in-residence at Emerson College, where I went to writing school.  I recognize the name, and she’s a well-known fiction writer almost everywhere by now.  It should be interesting to see how it goes.  I emailed Joe Krausman and asked him if he needed a ride.  He probably hasn’t had a chance to respond yet, since I emailed him at around three in the morning.  I used to love going to these public readings with the intent of criticizing and mocking these establishment writers.  These days, however, I hang onto their every word and witness their overwhelming talent.  From the snarky, anger filled shark that I was, I now listen to them closely and learn from their work, which is what I ought to have been doing in the first place.  I was a fool, and during the times when I was hyper-critical of their work, I could hardly write one good line myself.  I was a brat, in other words, and now I’m a true student.  It’s good to have been restored this way – from mocking them to accepting how truly talented they are.  While it is true that all of these writers are hired back each summer for the Writers Institute, I now find no fault in their selection.  I find awesome talent in them the more I mature.

But as I mentioned above,  my fellow poets at the NSI made a little fun of me for using the methods of literary criticism to critique their work.  These are poets who are extremely talented, but they were also self-educated.  They have read and studied a great deal without any formal degree, and in my opinion, they deserve a shot at the big time as well.  When they do get it, I’ll be very happy for them, because I think something really special is on the horizon for them – to break out of silence and obscurity into the light of day when people will finally begin to read and hear their work.  We did do a reading of the NSI a couple of weeks ago, and they really did well, despite the criticism offered by some of the local poets.  I can’t wait to do another reading with them, but this will probably take place in August or September, as there isn’t enough time to amass the material they need to hold an audience for the usual ten to fifteen minutes.  I think it’s best that we enjoy the liesure that summer-time affords instead of being so hell-bent on squeezing in another reading before one of our members moves permanently to Long Island.  We have plenty of time, and I’m thinking that, if asked, the poet who will move to Long Island would travel to Albany for the reading if she were part of it.  And so we wait like toads on lily pads, staring into the darkness and ribbeting at daylight.

It’s good to be awake at last.  I had myself a shower and a close shave where a beard had been growing.  I’m still waiting to find an old-time barber shop in Albany that will do an old-fashioned shave, but other than that, I feel as clean as the celestial realms above us.  It’s amazing what a shower does for a soul.  I have been revived and enlightened – a true renaissance of mind, and I have no other intention except to be optimistic for the future of the written word, in all of its forms.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.

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