BOOK REVIEW: JoAnn Stevelos’ “Dream Alibis”

July 5th, 2017, 4:00 pm by Sara

Review by Sara Ayers

Children learn the history of their families through stories, told over and over: “That’s how your parents met.” “That’s how we lost the house.” “That’s why I left your dad.” But as time passes and the child grows up, the stories inevitably become more nuanced, as the child detective gains both more details and and better insight into human motives. Perspectives shift and actions acquire more gradations. JoAnn Stevelos’ new book Dream Alibis delves into this phenomenon in a subtle journey that explores the bonds that both unite and divide families.

In the prologue, she lays out her themes – dreams as an alternative to reality and alibis as a skirting of guilt – and then launches into 13 short poems, illustrated by Ryder Cooley’s plaintive drawings, that fearlessly examine tiny junctures of grief and self-deception, now viewed from a wiser, more mature distance. Stevelos has a knack for distilling these crystalline moments of loss, sometimes surreal, sometimes achingly straight forward.

“Walk Along the Edges” is a dream-like telling of a pregnancy and birth, complete with squabbling siblings, a shirking lover and red pine trees as a supporting character. In “Bells,” a breezy account of a rainy day spent looking at old photographs abruptly comes to a rueful conclusion:

…our two grins as wide
as wide as the bells ringing inside me
whenever you come near

Bells ringing so loud
that I will never believe
you can’t hear them too.

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BookBeat: Roger Noyes Moves from the Stage to the Page

May 12th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Greg

If you’re a Greater Nippertown music fan, chances are good that you’re familiar with guitarist Roger Noyes, who plays in such bands as the Arch Stanton Quartet and the Jazz Caravan.

Well, Noyes is also an author, and he’s celebrating the publication of his first book, “Clara D. Noyes, R.N.: Life of a Global Nursing Leader” (Northshire Press), a biography of an important nursing leader in the early twentieth century who helped prepare and enroll 20,000 American Red Cross nurses for service to sick and dying American soldiers during World War I. Clara D. Noyes was also the author’s great-great aunt.

The publication party, reading and book-signing will take place from 7-9pm on Saturday (May 13) at Restaurant Navona in Albany. The book is also now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

MASS MoCA Announces Summer Season of Concerts & More

April 19th, 2017, 9:00 am by Greg
Booker T. Jones

Memphis soul great Booker T. Jones heads to MASS MoCA

Photograph by Ed Conway

In North Adams, the already massive MASS MoCA is about to double its gallery space with the Sunday, May 28 grand opening of the 130,000 square foot Building 6, featuring major new exhibitions and installations by James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, Jenny Holzer, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt and more.

And MASS MoCA is also expanding its performance offerings for the upcoming summer season. The museum has previously announced a number of high wattage performances – including outdoor concerts by the rock band Cake (Sunday, May 28) and My Morning Jacket (Saturday, August 12), as well as the return of the big multi-day music festivals Solid Sound (June 23-25) and FreshGrass (September 15-17), but now they’ve upped the ante with a summer-long schedule of concerts, films, theater, a dance party and lots more.

Tickets for the newly announced events are now on sale, and if you purchase tickets by Wednesday, May 3, the early-bird price includes a 25% discount.

Here’s the schedule of newly announced performance events for MASS MoCA’s 2017 summer season:

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Musician’s Haiku

April 17th, 2017, 4:17 pm by Greg

In honor of National Haiku Day and the launch of the annual Albany Word Festival, is pleased to publish the new poem by Ramblin Jug Stompers’ banjo player, Bowtie:

Tuning… in tune! No,
Tuning, tuning, tuning… nope
Just start anyway…

FEST: Albany Word Fest, A Week of Readings

April 12th, 2017, 10:00 am by Greg

April is National Poetry Month, which also means it’s time for the return of the Albany Word Fest. The 16th annual fest takes over Greater Nippertown from Monday-Saturday, April 17-22.

As usual there are a number of poetry events scheduled during the week. Of particular note is the return of the Readings Against the End of the World, which seems quite appropos right about now. The tireless Tom Nattell – who died in 2005 – organized and hosted the annual 24-hour open mic marathon at various locations around Albany from 1984-1993. Now seems like the right time to revive it. Feel free to sign up to read or just come to listen…

Here’s the complete 2017 Albany Word Fest schedule:

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Congrats to Paul Grondahl

February 3rd, 2017, 12:00 pm by Greg
Paul Grondahl

Paul Grondahl

Photograph by Ed Conway

Paul Grondahl, the author and award-winning writer-reporter-columnist at The Times Union since 1984, has been named the new director of the New York State Writers Institute.

Following a nation-wide search, the 57-year-old Grondahl, who earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and his master’s degree at UAlbany, was selected to succeed Donald Faulkner, who retired last year.

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FREE: NYS Writers Institute Schedule for 2017

January 25th, 2017, 9:30 am by Greg

Film directors…

From classic films to a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, from a British television personality to a Supreme Court Justice, from a National Book Award winning novelist to a MacArthur Foundation Grant winning jazz violinist, the New York State Writers Institute’s schedule of free events has been announced for the winter and sporing seasons, and there are plenty of golden opportunities to hear greats of the literary world and beyond.

Most events take place on the University of Albany campus, and admission is free for all of them.

Here’s the full schedule:

Robert Coover, award-winning fiction writer
Seminar: 4:15pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Reading: 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Robert Coover, pioneer of experimental and electronic fiction, is celebrated for work that reinvents and reimagines the art of storytelling. The New York Times has called him “a one-man Big Bang of exploding creative force.” He is the author of more than 25 books, including the novels “The Origin of the Brunists” (1966), which received the William Faulkner Award for best first novel; “The Public Burning” (1977), nominated for a National Book Award; and the story collection “A Night at the Movies” (1987), winner of the Rea Award. His new novel, “Huck Out West” (2017), picks up where Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” leaves off – on the eve of the Civil War. In a starred review Booklist described the book as “a near-masterpiece…a surprisingly tender, touching paean to the power of storytelling and the pains of growing up.”

Shaka Senghor, author and prison reform activist
Lecture: 7pm, “Your Worst Deeds Do Not Define You,” UAlbany Campus Center Ballroom
Reception: 5:30-6:45pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Patroon Room
Shaka Senghor is the author of the memoir “Writing My Wrongs” (2016), a New York Times bestseller that candidly recounts his life growing up in an abusive household in Detroit during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic, his 19-year incarceration for murder at the age of 19, and the tools he used to confront his past and construct his future. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams praised the book describing it as “a profound story of neglect, violence, discovery, redemption and inspiration….Prepare to have your preconceptions shattered.” Senghor is a leading voice in criminal justice reform.

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BEST OF 2016: Washington Post’s 10 Best Graphic Novels

December 30th, 2016, 2:15 pm by Greg


Yes, it’s that time of year once again – best of the year list-time, that is. We’re gathering together Best of 2016 from media outlets, our own contributors and our readers, too.

Here’s The Washington Post’s round-up of the Best Graphic Novels of 2016, as compiled by Michael Cavna:

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