Sunday, April 15, 2007


Having spent my career working with words, I really appreciate people who have a way with them. Matthew Spireng is one of those people. I've known Matt for many years. He's a wonderful poet, and I regret that my schedule and his readings are rarely compatible. The last time I heard Matt read his work was in September 2006, during a program sponsored by Scenic Hudson at Poet's Walk Park in Red Hook. The beautiful setting was the perfect place to hear his elegant, nature-inspired poetry.

So I was delighted to hear I have another opportunity, this time in Greene County. Here are the details:

Poetry reading by Alan Catlin and Matthew J. Spireng
open mike following
Saturday, April 21st, 2 p.m.
Athens Cultural Center
24 Second Street
Athens, New York 12015
Suggested donation $3
Hosted by Bob Wright
For more information, call 518-444-4561
Driving directions at bottom of post.

Also, Matt has a new chapbook coming out. The poems in Young Farmer are loosely based on the life of his father as a young farmer in the 1930s and early 1940s. R.H.W. Dillards says of Young Farmer: “Matthew Spireng’s Young Farmer is the clear-eyed poetic equivalent of the paintings of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and Andrew Wyeth. Moving from love to loss, from youthful dreams to the realities of a life of hard scrabble and hard luck, these poems, written with an elegant simplicity, form an elegy to the disappearing world of the small farmer and at the same time a celebration of the individual human spirit.”

Spireng's full-length book manuscript Out of Body won the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award and was published in 2006 by Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. Previous chapbooks were Encounters, 2005, by Finishing Line Press; Inspiration Point, 2002, the winner of the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition; and Just This, 2003, by Hampden-Sydney College. The title poem of Inspiration Point refers to the lookout by the same name on the escarpment in Greene County.

Spireng's individual poems have won two national awards and been recognized in numerous other national contests. He has also received two Pushchart Prize nominations. Since 1990 nearly 500 of his poems have appeared in publications across the United States, including The American Scholar, Yankee Magazine, Southern Humanities Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, English Journal, and Louisiana Literature. He is also an award-winning journalist.

Spireng lives in Lomontville in Ulster County in the house in which he was raised on the wooded acreage left from the family farm.

Alan Catlin has been publishing in the "little and not-so-little" magazines and journals since the middle 70's, primarily as a poet. Up till now he has been published in hundreds of places, amassing enough file cards representing published work to fill two and half file card boxes.

His first chapbook appeared in 1980, and dozens have followed in the last twenty-five years. Three of those were winners of national competitions. A fourth was first runner-up and was also printed. Another dozen or so have been finalists in competitions over the years. In addition to the many chapbooks, he has four full-length books to his credit, ranging from the now-long-out-of-print Animal Acts, which was hailed as the “Most Neglected Book of 1984” by legendary Wormwood Review editor Marvin Malone. A collaboration with Paul Weinman called Barred on Both Sides received that same accolade several years later. More recent books include Drunk and Disorderly, from Pavement Saw Press; The Schenectady Chainsaw Massacre, from Staplegun Press; and Playing Tennis with Antonioni, from March Street Press, which also published his chapbook Stop Making Sense.

Over the years his work has received 17 Pushcart prize nominations—13 for poetry, and four for fiction. Although he does not write science-fiction poetry per se, he has received three Rhysling Award nominations for best science-fiction poems of the year. Book manuscripts of his have been finalists in several national competitions, including those for The Brittingham Award (University of Wisconsin Press), The Lena Miles Wever Award (Pleiades Press/LSU Press), and the Quercus Review Press. He has also published reviews, over a hundred short stories, and had a column named after his submission to William Safire's On Language column in the New York Times. Stories of his have been in Slipstream and The Literary Review and have made regular appearances in the irregular NYC magazine, Happy, once ranked 13 in the market for short stories by Writer's Digest.

Currently he is working on another volume in his Killer Drink series five of which have been published and a sixth accepted. He is also at work on an extended sequence of self-portraits with artists, which may or may not be actual self portraits. Last year he wrote the first volume of a fictional memoir about his years spent in hotel and restaurant management, called Chaos Management. The second volume of memoirs will contain linked stories all of which are set in the same three hours, in a bar, over a number of years; it is titled Hours of Happiness. He is currently enjoying his recent retirement from the unchosen profession of barman.

Young Farmer, available from Finishing Line Press.

There are two ways to order Matt's new book, if you want a copy: snail mail or going to their Web site. The book is Young Farmer by Matthew J. Spireng and if they receive the order before May 9 is $12 per copy. There is no shipping charge before May 9. After that it's $2 per book for shipping.
The Web site is It's in a section called "new releases."
To order by mail, send a check or money order to:
Finishing Line Press
PO Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 40324

The Athens Cultural Center is located in the center of the historic village, a block from the Hudson River, at the intersection of Second Street and Washington Street (Route 385).
From the West Bank of the Hudson River, the Center can be reached on exit 21 of the New York State Thruway. Follow Route 23 East towards the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Directly before the bridge, take Route 385 North into the village of Athens. Route 385 becomes Washington Street. The Center is located one half block west of Washington Street on Second Street.

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