An Evening of Poetry

Photo by Erica Blaize.

Two experienced and celebrated Hudson Valley writers entertained a crowd of scholars and educators to an evening of poetry.

SUNY New Paltz’s own journalism professor Howard Good and veteran poet Donald Lev read pieces from their newest works at the Honors Center on Feb. 18.

Lecturer David Carr introduced Good and Lev, calling them two of his favorite Hudson Valley writers and emphasizing that they have “published more poems than anyone has a right to do.”

Both Good and Lev have their work published in various anthologies, and have published an abundance of their own books.

Good said his poetic interest sparked at age 14. Although he was always engrossed in poetry, he chose to dedicate his work to journalism and academia for most of his professional life. Only in the last 10 years has he been able to dedicate much of his time to poetry.

“Poetry was something that everyone, including my parents, looked forward to me outgrowing,” Good said. “It’s almost like the adolescent in me that I had stuck in a corner has come of age.”

Good’s recent poetry works include “The Complete Absence of Twilight” from MadHat Press and “Fugitive Pieces” published by Right Hand Pointing. “Fugitive Pieces” is a collection of collage poems and all proceeds made from the book go to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

Good read some of his works from “Fugitive Pieces,” which contained stanzas carrying deep meaning hidden by the hilarity of their putative randomness.

Lev’s gruff voice and New York City accent provided a unique platform for his hilarious poetry. Most of his poems were short, one of which, titled “Jazz Lyric,” being only one line. Lev also read a poem from his late wife Enid Dame titled “The Woman Who Was Water.”

Born in New York City in 1936, Lev also has a journalism background, having worked for The New York Times and The Daily News. He then spent 20 years driving cabs and in 1979 he and his wife  founded the literary tablet Home Planet News, which he continues to publish to this day. Lev’s newest collections include “A Very Funny Fellow,” published by NYQ Books in 2012 and “Where I Sit,”  published by Presa Press this year.

After they were finished reading, Carr asked the poets about their experiences as writers.

“Writing is so much a part of who I am that if I don’t do it, I feel like I’m not myself,” Good said. “It’s just sort of like breathing to me at this point.”

Good also had insight as to how he was able to stay dedicated to writing.

“You have to tell yourself, ‘I have to organize my life around my writing, not my writing around my life,’” Good said. “That’s really one of the crucial commitments you have to make.”

Lev agreed, saying Good “couldn’t have put it better.”