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Terence Winch
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Thanks, Earle. It's great to have you & Stephen Reichert offer your own favorite Liam poems. The poems live on!
Thanks, Lynne. I had forgotten that Liam was the one who brought you to Mass Transit---I have that to thank him for as well.
I remember well that night you and I stumbled in upon Liam and his entourage before a reading he was doing in DC. At some restaurant/bar downtown. That was when we both had actual jobs in the nation's capital. Thanks for "My Memoir." Odd that it didn't make it into his book.
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It's difficult for me to accept that 10 years have passed since my old friend Liam Rector took his own life. We had known each other since my early days in Washington, DC, where we were both part of the Mass Transit open poetry reading group started by Michael Lally in the early 1970s. We became better friends in the '80s and after, and I still miss his often outrageous, but always smart and funny perspective on life and poetry. I wrote about him here a year after his death. And Wikipedia offers this short bio. [photo at left by Parrish Dobson] I learned of his death very quickly after it occurred from his longitme friend and protege David Fenza. I was shocked, but in some ways not surprised. Liam had hinted very clearly that suicide was something he regarded as a real option for him. It was over-the-top, dramatic, arresting, absolute---an act, in other words, that fit his personality perfectly. I respect his right to take his own life. I don't know what he was contending with that pushed him to this extreme, but I suspect it was a combination of medical problems and spiritual despair. He left behind his wife, Tree Swenson, herself a significant figure in the New York literary world back then; his daughter Virginia from his second marriage; and a multitude of friends, colleagues, and students. He is a hard person to forget, and I miss him still. Here is a message he left on my answering machine sometime not too long before his death. I offer it not because of its flattering praise of my work, but to give a sense of the kind of friend he could be---full of appreciation and support for the people he cared about: Liam Rector phone message Here are two of my favorite poems of Liam's: OLD COAT Dressed in an old coat I lumber Down a street in the East Village, time itself Whistling up my ass and looking to punish me For all the undone business I have walked away from, And I think I might have stayed In that last tower by the ocean, The one I built with my hands and furnished Using funds which came to me at nightfall, in a windfall.... Just ahead of me, under the telephone wires On this long lane of troubles, I notice a gathering Of viciously insane criminals I'll have to pass Getting to the end of this long block in eternity. There's nothing between us. Good I look so dangerous in this coat. MENTAL MOMMY Home from school at six years old, first grade, And uncle there to tell me Mommy Gone, Mommy not be coming back any Time soon, Liam, Mommy had to go to Mental hospital. Nervous breakdown. Years later Mommy, when she gets out Of mental, often says, "If you're A bad boy for me Liam you're Going to send me back, back Into mental hospital, like you did First time." At 13... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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Alright, David! (I hope Stacey doesn't see this.)
Go, David! Great stuff.
Toggle Commented Jan 1, 2017 on Happy Holidays! at The Best American Poetry
Thanks for this, Michael. Ray was a good friend for many decades. You introduced us ca. 1972 & we kept in touch thereafter. He was a singular man & writer. I will miss him---it's hard to accept that I can't just pick up the phone & give him a call.
Nice work, Ms. Harwood!
Brilliant! But now you've made me feel like I've just flunked my Hitchcock comprehensives.
Thanks for this, Jerome. If Michael had stopped writing 20 or 30 years ago, he would still have easily qualified, IMO, as a major American poet. The fact that he is still turning out brilliant work today only solidifies his importance.
This looks great, but you can't "continue reading" without subscribing to the WSJ. Which is frustrating. I love Coleridge. "Kubla Khan" is the greatest poem in English.
Great post. I always loved Jack Benny. And Jimmy Durante. And John Ashbery. And drinking. And Mickey Rooney (Scottish; real name: Joe Yule; cf. Joe Christmas). And so forth.
"...swift, dishy, insightful, entertaining"---true of the book and its author.
Thanks, Janey---I still remember what a thrill it was when you published my little chapbook Nuns and got Edward Gorey to provide the cover image.
But I'm glad you & your work are still with us. Thanks, Tom.
Thanks, Earle, for your characteristically insightful & knowledgeable response.
Thank you, my dear. At least I still have your painting of the box.
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I found the poem below recently in a pile of papers from around 2008. I had no memory of having written it, but I’m sure many writers have the same kind of experience. Forgetfulness enshrouding us all. What intrigued me is that the poem seems to predict what happened a year or two after I wrote it. In late 2010, I sold a precious piece of my past—an Irish button accordion I got when I was around 8 years old. I can still dimly remember going to Manhattan with my father and his best friend P.J. Conway to buy this instrument, which I think cost about $200, a fortune for my family in those days. It was beautiful but hard to play—the keyboard action was high and stiff. The Black Box, painting by Susan Campbell When I retired from the Smithsonian in 2009, I needed to look for some extra money, and that’s when selling the old box occurred to me. I’d hardly touched it since 1980-81, when I replaced it with a succession of instruments that are easier to play. I don’t think it was a bad decision to sell it. My father had a kind of Zen-like non-attachment to material things, and I think he would have blessed the de-accessioning of the box. It was bought by a Dublin accordion-player of impressive ability named Ray Dempsey (pictured below). He in turn sold it to a Frenchman named Laurent Jarry, who presides over an accordion emporium in the Paris suburb of Montreuil that I would love to visit one day. Black Box My father took me downtown and bought me the most amazing black box. A beauty, with flags, harps, and flowers, all in rhinestone. My name affixed to it, in big block letters, also of rhinestone. To me, they were white diamonds. The box was very heavy. As I got older, it grew even heavier. Because only an expert could open it, I never put anything into it. After my father died, I put the black box into a bigger box and didn’t think about it for many years. Until a few weeks ago, when I was overcome with a sense of the past, which has a distinct smell, like that of someone eating Doritos in the Metro, and I looked everywhere for the box. But it’s gone, and all those ancient attachments, so glittery and fragile, gone with it. Laurent Jarry's Accordion shop Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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She sounds like a fantastic person, and she certainly did a good job raising you. I want some of that cream in my medicine cabinet.
Sounds like a great night. Wish I had been there. It would be pretty difficult not to like Paul or his work.
Hmmmm...I think I know what I'll make for lunch today. Thanks for the expert & insightful introduction to this beautiful painting.