Albany Journal – 7/1/12

Today is another hot and sunny day, and I think we’ve had a string of them here in Albany.  The reading we had the other night of the New Surrealist Institute went surprisingly well.  Poets are really a very talented people.  The way they use words is uncanny, and even without knowing what the narrative spine of what each poem meant, I was still thunderstruck by how well these poets have mastered such important elements in a poem, such as word choice, meter and rhyme, or even the more contemporary prose-poem where its meaning can be more easily interpreted.  We had a really fine group of poets, and I’m very thankful that our marketing methods didn’t work, because otherwise we would have taken in about 500 people in the Albany area.  Luckily, the group was small but significant enough to have a great reading. 

My fellows who read were John Allen, Allen Parmenter, Alaine Cohen, and myself as the sole prose writer of the bunch.   All of them, mostly around my age of 41, had never read their poetry before in front of an audience, and I think they were so taken aback by the reading, that they had every intention of doing even more readings – this time in costumes – as befitting of surrealist poetry.  We even had one of Allen’s housemates dress up in medieval armor as a costume, and so we have decided to wear costumes at our next reading, which will probably take place before the summer ends.  I am really glad that we all made it through, and all of us are so enthused by it, that we just have to do it again and again.

For this week coming up, there is the summer public reading series up in Saratoga Springs, sponsored by William Kennedy’s Writers Institute.  All of the heavy hitters read there, and it’s definitely a real thrill to hear the likes of William Kennedy and Joyce Carol Oates read their work.  I used to have dinner with William Kennedy, by the way, as his son and I were in the same English class in college.  I only left the round table group, due to my growing need for alcohol all over again. 

William Kennedy is really Albany’s greatest promoter and its favorite writer.  He commands a lot of respect for setting up the Writers Institute so that word-hungry writers and readers can all take part.  I have nothing but praises for the man who put Albany’s great literary traditions on the map and explained Albany’s politics so well.  So I will definitely attend the Writers Institute’s first public reading up at Skidmore College tomorrow evening.   I can’t wait for it actually, as there really isn’t that much to do today other than take shade from the intense sunlight that we are so privileged to have here in Albany and stay cool despite the heat.  Actually, today is definitely a beach day, so I may go up to the beach a Grafton Park at some point this week, if the weather remains the same.

It’s interesting how I never knew how social writing could be – meaning that one really has to be a social butterfly one minute and a serious writer the next.  I’m happy to report that I don’t need the alcohol in me anymore to socialize.  I’m slowly learning how to socialize amongst other writers, and I’ve found that it really isn’t such a hard thing to be a nice guy.  In New York City, the artists had fangs for teeth, as everyone wanted the same thing – to become a famous and well-known writer.  At least, up here, I have the freedom not to be, and I am very thankful about that.  As soon as I left city limits, the more generous side of life started to open up for me.  I now have been restored to good health by the poets and writers who took me in up here.  I plan to pay it forward to any artist who comes up here after the devastating behemoth of the city to the south has finished chewing them up.

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.