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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: A Poetry reading at the Albany Book Festival


We're delighted to feature a reading with the Capital Region Poetry Workshop as part of our Albany Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the University at Albany. The group of local poets will read from their works at 2 p.m. on The Orb Stage in Campus Center West at UAlbany.


Event details

Capital Region Poetry Workshop Reading

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

The Orb Stage, Campus Center West

Featured poets: Caroline Grondahl, Liz Grisaru, Melissa Hurt, Jonathan Lloyd, Marilyn Paarlberg, Ellen White Rook, Sue Whitaker, Gary Maggio


Some background:

In December 2019, poet, actor, and teacher Gary Maggio, inspired by the Capital Region Poets Workshop which he created and facilitated for more than eight years in the early 2000s, sent out a call to convene a biweekly poetry workshop.

Co-sponsored and supported by the NYS Writers Institute at the University at Albany, Gary envisioned a diverse mix of 10 poets who would work well together and provide and accept each other’s input and critical observation with a mutual desire to improve their poems.

The group first met in early February 2020, and met three times in person before the pandemic lockdown. Thanks to NYS Writers Institute Program Coordinator Jen Kowalski’s support, the workshop quickly transitioned to Zoom and has been meeting online every other week since.


The featured poets in their own words:

Caroline Grondahl lives in Brooklyn with their girlfriend and a cat they picked up off the street. She recently placed third in the 2022 Hudson Valley Writers Guild poetry contest. She has worked for the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, and various organizing groups, learning from brilliant activists in the continued fight for abolition. She wants you to know that you should give money and resources to local, direct and mutual aid initiatives before you give to behemoth non-profits but you didn’t hear it from her.


Liz Grisaru took a long detour from writing poetry to do a bunch of other things, including raising two young adults, and just before COVID hit was walking through Penn Station in Manhattan after some meetings and a poem came into her head for the first time in years. One way or the other, this minor miracle continues to pay off. She is very grateful to the Writers Institute for supporting this poetry group. She likes rhyme and meter and hopes you don’t mind.


Melissa Hurt is a performance teacher, yoga arts teacher, author, and mother. She is a small business owner -- www.melissahurt.com -- and coaches professionals on personal development and communication skills. She’s worked in the past as a makeup artist, a waitress, a temp in various office settings, and a department head at a community college. Everything comes full circle and nothing is for nothing. She may be from the South, but don’t confuse her kindness for naivete. She chooses kindness every day and learns from every person she meets.


Jonathan Lloyd, ¡Bully of the world! Proud member of the Semicolon Appreciation Society; when introduced at poetry readings, he often -- though not always -- likes to flop onto the floor in a heap and play dead; and who is today about as jittery as a ladybug on a Dutchman’s breeches…or so they say.

Gary Maggio founded and facilitated two Capital Region Workshops, this most recent iteration thanks in great part To Jennifer Kowalski and Paul Grondahl as well as his best bud in Asheville, Mike Ross. While no longer in the current group, he’s pleased to have been invited to read a poem for old time's sake by the current talented group.


Marilyn Paarlberg has written poetry for most of her life, but got serious about it when she moved to the Capital District in 2003 and connected with other poets through the NYS Writers Institute. Her work appears in The Cortland Review, the Aurorean, and other regional journals. A couple of her lyrics have been set to music and performed in concert by two different bands, one of which is included on a 2012 album by singer-songwriter Scott Adams. In the category of sheer fun, Marilyn holds the title of First Runner Up in the 2011 Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate contest.


Ellen White Rook is a poet and teacher of contemplative arts living who divides her time between Delmar, New York, and South Portland, Maine. Retired from NYS Information Technology Services, she now offers writing workshops and leads Sit, Walk, Write retreats that merge meditation, movement, and writing. She also teaches ikebana, Japanese flower arranging. Ellen is a graduate of the University at Albany and the Master of Fine Arts program at Lindenwood University. Her work has been published in Montana Mouthful, New Verse News, Red Rock Review, Rock & Sling, Trolley Literary Journal, and more. In 2021, two of her poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.


Sue Whitaker took a couple of poetry writing workshops in college then started writing again a few years ago. She is thankful for the NYS Writers Institute for supporting a poetry writing group and for the wonderful poets in this group.