Very little seems to have escaped the eye and pen of Tom Corrado.
In his poem “A High of 51,” a homage to Schenectady, Corrado mentions just about every business in the city and all that he enjoys about it, as well as the C-130s that fly overhead and the trains that course through it.
An Amsterdam native who worked in Schenectady for years before recently retiring, Corrado will read his poem at the fifth annual Rensselaerville Festival of Writers next Sunday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m. at Conkling Hall in Rensselaerville.
‘Rensselaerville Festival of Writers’
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“I was very happy to have it selected,” said Corrado, one of 12 upstate New York authors who will read from their own material Sunday. “I haven’t been to the Festival of Writers yet, but I’m very excited to go and to participate and to see what it’s all about.”
The festival begins Thursday with four movies, capped by a presentation by Audubon New York Executive Director Erin Crotty at 7 p.m. at the Carey Center. Readings and writing workshops will be held throughout the day Friday and Saturday, and Saturday’s keynote address at 8 p.m. will be delivered by Joan Walsh, editor-at-large for Salon.com and a regular contributor to MSNBC.
Also, The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead will highlight Saturday’s Night Owls storytellers program by reading from her new book, “Lizz Free or Die,” a series of essays and recollections about her coming of age as a comedian. That portion of the program begins at 9:30 p.m.
Corrado’s poem was one of more than 40 submissions received by Festival of Writers judges.
“Anybody who lives in Schenectady will recognize the places in Tom’s poem,” said Linda Sonia Miller, another presenter this weekend and one of three women who started the festival five years ago. “We got manuscripts from more than 40 people from all over the Capital Region, and six judges read them blindly and then made their choices.”
Along with Corrado’s poetry, there are short stories and memoirs among the works selected to be read.
“We heard a lot of different voices, and some of these selections were from people who had never written before,” said Miller, referring to the piece offered by John Worth Gordon, a farmer from Livingstonville in Schoharie County, just west of Middleburgh. “We have a farmer who’s 92 and wrote a short story about his farm, and his piece was one of those selected. We’ve had nationally known artists in the past come to the festival, and they’re still coming, but I thought it was a great idea to include some time for local writers.”
Corrado, who now lives in Berne, started writing his poem about Schenectady two years ago.
“When I was working for the state in Schenectady, I was out at lunch time, waiting for the walk light so I could cross State Street, and this Suburban Propane truck went past me,” remembered Corrado. “I had been thinking about my poetry for a while, and as that truck went by me these lines just started coming to me. I decided it would be interesting to memorialize, write sort of a homage to Schenectady, and try to include as many businesses in the city as I could, as well as other entities. I started chipping away at it, and began adding some asides or comments that would hopefully keep the reader or listener interested.”
Corrado, who has had several works of poetry published in the past, created the Every Other Thursday Night Poets program at the Voorheesville Public Library and is also a member of the Capital District Prose Collective and Third Saturday Poesy Cafe.
“I started as an English teacher in Amsterdam, and then I switched to psychology at Fulton-Montgomery Community College because that’s what I majored in at college,” said Corrado. “I left and started working for the state more than 30 years ago, but poetry is still very important to me. I’ve been published quite a bit, and my stuff has been in a few chapbooks. I play around with lines nearly every day.”
Miller will be among the readers during Friday’s program at Conkling Hall, formerly the Rensselaerville Methodist Church.
“You can’t keep us old English teachers down,” Miller said with a laugh. “I taught at Pelham High [in Westchester County] and retired 10 years ago and moved here. We started this thing up five years ago, and it really has developed a life of its own. I’m very happy with the group of people that took it over: the steering committee, the residents of the village, the library director and staff.
“It was just one day when we started, but now it’s four days, and our little village can get pretty lively. We also have outdoor events and food vendors. It really takes on quite a festive atmosphere.”