Hometown, USA (1992)
Michael Cleary’s first book looks back on his family and country with a gentle but passionate eye: gentle because these people and places are recreated lovingly; passionate because they are shown truthfully, and in depth. Hometown, USA is a moving and lyrical debut of a fine poet.
Halfway Decent Sinners (2005)
Perhaps every poet should drive a beer truck. Perhaps every poet should grow up with the rigorous rigmarole of Catholicism. If that were to happen, then, and only then, would a poet craft a book as funny, sorrowful and beautiful as Michael Cleary’s Halfway Decent Sinners….
The real and imagined, earth and paradise, life and death, all exist simultaneously in Cleary’s poems. And because of this amazing combination, he generously brings us along on his journey through this world of light and love and loss.
Bearable Weight (2011)
The “bearable weight” of Michael Cleary’s title…almost perfectly characterizes the tones and attitudes of this striking collection. Rueful, grateful, regretful, and joyful by turns—and sometimes all at once—these lines reconcile the sorrows and pleasures of a whole lifetime.
Bearable Weight completes Michael Cleary’s “Points of America Trilogy.” For over 25 years, his award-winning poems have shared with readers the history, people, and places of 2 vastly different regions he’s called home—northern New York’s Adirondack town of Glens Falls and south Florida’s Fort Lauderdale.
His first book, Hometown, USA, won the 1992 American Book Series Award. Its title echoes LOOK Magazine’s 1944 series which profiled Glens Falls as the typical American town, a view corroborated in 1964 by Swedish National Television. Growing up among French & Indian and Revolutionary War locales, Cleary unfolds his experience against the backdrop of history and LOOK’s earlier assessments. Its final section, “The Sunshine State,” charts new beginnings in Florida.
In 2005, Halfway Decent Sinners continues to weave a Glens Falls past and a Florida present, with focus on evolving views of his Catholic upbringing and parochial school experiences. The results are by turns candid, comical, and poignant as he learns to value “this breathtaking common world.”
His new book, Bearable Weight, seamlessly merges life changes both geographical and personal, what one critic praises as “a skill for making his American experience both compellingly particular and universal.”
Cleary’s vivid word pictures, wry humor, and keen character portrayals make for lively storytelling, a heartfelt tribute to these unique American places and people who shaped his life.
From all over the city, we met
under downtown’s 4-sided clock,
not to be stuck all alone
If girls sauntered by, we
mumbled dumb or blurted
the first blush of love songs.
Later, we teased our
with shoplifting dares
and raunchy jokes.
We never heard days
or noticed slow hands
nudging everyday lives.
Summer showers tickled
streets, and snowflakes swirled
like confetti around lighted dials
tall faces watched over
our pinball lives—
sinful, blessed, scared,
bubbling hometown air.
from Bearable Weight
© WordTech Communications (2011)