For nearly a decade, the series now known as New World Writers’ Night has been tapping into the mid-Hudson Valley’s long tradition of area poets and prose writers. Two outstanding poets are on the series’ agenda soon: Mark Wunderlich on February 25, and Eamon Grennan on April 28.
Mezzaluna Writers’ Night was my own favorite venue, and I attended it regularly. When poet Judith Lechner – at least the third to run the series – decided to retire at the end of 2013, I offered to continue just because I didn’t want to see it end. And when Mezzaluna closed at the end of 2014, we were fortunate enough to find it a hospitable new home at New World Home Cooking, where it has its own room and New World’s excellent food for creative inspiration. The readings now take place at New World on the last Thursday of each month, at 7 p.m. There is no admission charge, although we do take a voluntary collection for the featured writers, and the evening includes an open mic, which is usually of high quality.
Mark Wunderlich was born in Minnesota in 1968 and remained in the Midwest until he earned his MFA degree at Columbia University. His first book, Anchorage, published in 1999 by the University of Massachusetts Press, is largely a celebration of his gay identity. It originated as his MFA thesis, and he finished it in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His two books since, Voluntary Servitude and The Earth Avails, were published by the prestigious literary house Graywolf Press. Lechner heard Wunderlich read at an art gallery in Saugerties and recommended him to me. Then I heard him for myself at another fine poetry series, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills (UUCC), where I immediately asked him to read at New World. Wunderlich has taught at Bennington College for more than a decade, but he lives near Catskill, placing him within reach of our series. His readings are as effective as his writing.
“The amazing Eamon Grennan,” as Billy Collins calls him, is simply one of the greatest living poets in the English language. He was born in Dublin in 1941 and still spends part of every year in Ireland. But since his retirement from Vassar College in 2004, where he had taught since 1974, he still lives the rest of his year near Poughkeepsie. In 2009 I heard Grennan, who had graciously volunteered to feature at a session of the Poets for Food series. He did not read again in Ulster County until last year, when I heard him at the UUCC and also at Nina Shengold’s Word Café. When I asked Grennan why he had not read in the area more often, he replied, “Nobody else has asked me.” Amazed, I asked if he would come to New World, and he agreed.
So far Grennan is the author of at least 19 books – including six published by Graywolf – and has had poems published in nearly every prestigious poetry magazine, including Poetry Magazine itself (another print venue that he shares with Wunderlich). Collins, perhaps America’s best-known poet, elaborates on his appreciation: “Few poets are as generous as Eamon Grennan in the sheer volume of delight his poems convey, and fewer still are as attentive to the marvels of the Earth. To read him is to be led on a walk through the natural world of clover and cricket and, most of all, light, and to face with an open heart the complexity of being human.”
The feature at New World for March is not yet settled, but in May we’ll have a Prose Night with Jana Martin and Brent Robison, and in July, my own writing group, the Goat Hill Poets. All lovers of good writing are welcome to attend this series, where food and drink are served in our room in the back, but there are no minimums or requirements; some come just to listen or to read in the open mic. Those who intend to have dinner before the reading can make reservations by calling (845) 246-0900.
New World Writers’ Night, Thursdays, February 25 (Mark Wunderlich), April 28 (Eamon Grennan), 7 p.m., free, New World Home Cooking, 1411 Route 212, Saugerties; (845) 246-0900, www.newworldhomecooking.com.