By Octavia Findley
In light of the inconstant rain, there was a good turnout at “An Evening with Local Writers” held by Hudson Valley Community College. The event’s date was shared with National Coming Out Day, and Richard Hartshorn, a faculty member at the college and a poet in his own right, paused to remark on the criteria for submission for a local publication. “’No swearing, graphic violence, explicit sexual content, or LGBTQ…’” He sighed, “There are clubs that will let you publish without supporting oppression.” A hum of acknowledgement made it across the auditorium chairs before Hartshorn began the night’s reading. His excerpts were from two prose pieces called The Grim Reaperand The Gorgon, about a transgender protagonist that works as an actor in a carnival show. In the case of the latter, the Gorgon was carved into an old mall, with larger than life performances and personalities. The piece even featured beasts from beyond the veil, as magical realism tinged the pages.
The next poet on the stage was Sarah Giragosian, a professor of the Writing and Critical Inquiry program at the University at Albany, as well as author ofQueer Fish, which won the 2014 American Poetry Journal Book Prize. She read several smaller poems from said title, “The Decoration Crab”, “Eros”, and the “The Fish Beneath the Portuguese Man o’ War” were a few of the selected. She also introduced a few titles from her upcoming publication, The Death Spiral as well as its eponymous poem. The themes explored the struggles of environmental issues and climate change through both the lens of the human and the animal experience, united through vivid imagery.
Rone Shavers, authored in Pank Magazineand associated professor at the College of Saint-Rose, took the microphone next. Inspired, or as playfully indicated by the author, “ripped off” from Richard Bausch’s Letter to the Lady of the House, Shavers began his own piece, Letter to the Man of the House. It much read the same, with the endearing yet deeply frustrated tone that the original piece evokes but with strange tangents that do not quite add up. The ending is quite the turn of events; spoiling it here would be a disservice. Shavers then turned to a completely different genre: a novel in progress called The Coat Switchers. Set in Haiti, centered on a man named Charles, it grants a new perspective upon the nation in its beauty and struggles, mired in secrets and intrigue.
The last poet for the night was Jill Hanifan, twice-named Poet in Residence of the New York State council of the arts, director of the Writing Center and faculty advisor for Arch Undergraduate Magazine, both located at the University at Albany. She began right away, stating the first selection was “one that I don’t get to read often,” titled “Saint Christopher’s School Bus”, drawn from her experiences as a school bus driver in Western New York’s farthest reach. As she read, you understood why she would choose this one rarely. Despite the children that needed to get home a dreaded snowstorm rolled in with no regard for her or the student’s safety. She also read “Secret Crush” and “Fantasia on Mary Poppins”, both thankfully more lighthearted in nature. Her final thanks was echoed by a thunderclap as the rain picked up again.