R.I.P.: W. S. Merwin

The memory of you emerges from the night around

me. The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

I became obsessed with W. S. Merwin’s work and the man himself in late high school and early college. He wrote the earth-based but visionary type of poems I lusted to do myself (rather quickly I discovered I did not have the breath of the spirits in me) and his soaring translations of Pablo Neruda and Osip Mandelstam turned me on to both of them. The bucolic Buddhism flowing under his words is unmatched.

My book picks:

The Drunk in the Furnace

The Lice

The Carrier of Ladders (start with this one)

The Compass Flower

Opening the Hand


Merwin gave a reading at MSU in Bozeman my freshman year (1970) and of course I was there. Afterwards, I got him to sign the poster announcing the reading. He was naturally amused and thought it odd I wanted a poster and not a book, but, y’know, rock stars sign the posters of their concerts. He was a very gracious, generous and kind man who made sure the wobbly fan from the sticks did not freak out in any way.

I was blessed that the first two literary figures I encountered in person were William “Gatz” Hjortsberg and Merwin. I thought, “Wow, writers are very friendly and civilized people. Inspirations.”  Little did I know.  But the lovely fantasy made me want to do what they did.

Namaste forever.

R.I.P.: Peter Tork

I enjoyed episodes of the TV show, though I have no desire to re-view them. Thought Headquarters was a necessary statement. And long ago concluded the Monkees had occupied precisely the right amount of cultural space. I was pleased to see Mr. Tork agreed in the final graph of his NY Times obit.

Like many artists, Mr. Tork concluded that happiness came simply from doing the work. “It’s about getting to play the music full time,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1992. “It’s not about the following anymore, the fame game. A little bit of fame is fun, but I’ve had enough, thank you.”

PS: What’s the matter with my head? I forgot to add that the Super Secret (kinda) Insider Pick is the Head soundtrack. (The one time I watched the movie itself made my titular body part hurt.)


R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.