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The New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany mourns the loss of Professor Harry C. Staley, beloved teacher, noted Joyce scholar, poet, memoirist, and filmmaker.

Staley died Monday, August 6, 2018 in Albany after a long illness. He is survived by a son, Gregory Staley of Maryland.

Harry StaleyA memorial service will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at Magin and Keegan Funeral Home, 891 Madison Avenue in Albany.

Staley was a Professor Emeritus of English at the University at Albany, where he taught from 1956 until his retirement in 1993. His poetry has been published in Groundswell, Psycho-poetry, The Little Magazine, Pennsylvania Literary Review, Arizona Quarterly, and elsewhere.

"Harry Staley was a great teacher, even outside the classroom," said William Kennedy, founder and executive director of the NYS Writers Institute, "His offhand conversation was wise, eloquent, provocative, hilarious. His knowledge of James Joyce�s work, including the daunting Finnegans Wake, was compendious and astounding."

Harry Staley"Like Joyce he was a relentless punster," Kennedy recalled, and offered one of Staley's puns: �The nuns tell me to eschew gum. They tell me to stop punning about them. I assure them I�ll kick the habit.�

�I took a graduate class on Irish literature from Harry Staley in 1981 and he changed my life," said Writers Institute director Paul Grondahl, "He was one of those rare professors who come along once or twice in our lifetimes. His insights and entertaining style transformed us. I have met many writers who called Harry their all-time favorite professor. I remained close to Harry and his late wife, Helen, over the years and there was no more stimulating conversation than a lunch with the two of them." Grondahl added, "As a poet and a teacher, Harry Staley, a World War II veteran, left a legacy of service to his students and to the enduring power of literature to make a troubled world a better place.�

"He was a late-blooming poet but really a poet before he ever wrote a poem," said Kennedy. "He was a brilliant and stouthearted literatus, a benevolent man. I once asked him when he decided to become a poet. 'I haven�t decided,' he said."

Staley's collected poetry, Truant Pastures: The Complete Poems of Harry C. Staley, was published in 2011 by Excelsior Editions of SUNY Press. In advance praise, literature scholar Todd F. Davis said, �The portrait of the speaker in the majority of these poems is one of a man conflicted in his religious faith, in his faith in his fellow human community, in the wars that religion has persuaded his fellow humans to take part in� Staley demonstrates an understanding that is deeply spiritual, yet does not yield to easy, forgiving answers.�

Staley�s first collection, The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain (1995), is a narrative in poetry that follows the life of military chaplain Charles J. McCaffery from his birth in 1920 to his death in a nursing home in 1987. Kennedy said in advance praise, �What a marvelous poetic biography Harry Staley has given us!... The coherence, the wit, and the power of Staley�s first published work are formidable. A virtuoso performance.�

Staley�s second collection, All One Breath: Selected Poems (2002), is a series of autobiographical poems that draw from Staley�s own war experiences. In praise, poet and UAlbany Professor Judith Johnson said, �There is no poem in this collection which fails to delight, instruct, move and astonish.�

Harry Staley spent his first 18 years in Brooklyn, where, as a pupil in Catholic schools, he was taught, in his own words, �to understand the world in terms of the Catechism of the Council of Trent.� He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and saw combat with the artillery in France and Germany.

He earned a B.A. at St. John's University, an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his thesis on James Joyce (special emphasis on Finnegans Wake and the Tridentine Catechism) while teaching English and Theatre at Loyola College and the University at Albany. He also taught at the American University at Paris (Philosophy) and at Xiamen University in China. He was the first person to teach Joyce in China.

In his 37 years at UAlbany, Professor Staley was celebrated as an enthusiastic and caring teacher. In the early 1970s he developed, with his close colleague the late Tom Smith, former assistant director of the Writers Institute, a concert-reading and subsequent film script composed of passages from Finnegans Wake. There followed another film based on the �Bride-ship and Gulls� episode.

These films were shown at The James Joyce Symposia in Paris and Zurich, and elsewhere in Europe and America. The films were widely used in classroom courses and seminars at several universities. Staley read his poetry regularly at events in the Capital Region and, most enjoyably for him, in Ireland. Staley is predeceased by his wife, Helen, who died September 6, 2017, after 65 years of marriage.

Harry Staley�s last appearance at the New York State Writers Institute in 2012

Paul Grondahl�s story published after Staley's 2012 reading: A poet taps the power of his art Harry Staley magnificent in reading at Writers Institute at UAlbany

Harry Staley at the New York State Writers Institute in 2002