…The days dwindle down to a precious few,
these precious days I’ll spend with you.
It’s hard to believe it’s already September and I’m into the second year of my two-year appointment as Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County (2016-2018). Thanks to all! It’s a great honor, huge, especially for an 84-year-old dude, 60+ years of scribbling, the poet as octogenarian.
Poet Laureate. It’s been a blessing, a blessing in every way. A vote of confidence, shout of encouragement, inspiration to get on with the writing. I’m thinking of those two still unfinished books, the New & Collected Poems, 1957-2020; and Love Has Made Grief Absurd—Gloria, A Monologue. I’m thankful. The past twelve months have been especially fulfilling, happy, loving, productive. Poetry? In truth, I feel I’ve only just begun.
And, yes, much gratitude to Gloria, my muse these past 30 years. She’s pushing 90 and, yes, I’m pushing too. I’m right behind her. I can’t help being excited by this new, this still in progress book-length love poem, Love Has Made Grief Absurd–Gloria, A Monologue.
Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, Gloria responded, not unexpectedly, with rage, with fury, and, beaten down, depressed, I was for a time unable to cope. Down on myself, useless to her those first 2-3 years, I began hearing what I thought of as a kind of poetry, the poetry of dementia. So it was I backed off from my usual way of writing and, instead, began to listen to this mysterious “other,” this person, my wife of more than 20 years.
At work on the Gloria Monologue for 8 years, 8 years of listening, I felt the need to back off, surrender the stage to Gloria. So every word you’ll hear tonight–or read– is hers. I love the lady and could do no less.
Lately, as Poet Laureate, I’ve been working alongside Len Anderson of Poetry Santa Cruz and Laurie Egan of the Coastal Watershed Council, on preparations for the 3rd Annual Voices of the River event, Sunday, October 1st from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. We’re pleased to announce that our headliner, our featured poet will be California Poet Laureate Emeritus Al Young.
Over the past 12 months I participated in 6-7 events at the local jails, including Poetry Jamborees at the Main Jail in Santa Cruz and at the Rountree facility in Watsonville. A Jamboree, as I experienced it, is a 1-2 hour poetry event with local poets like Ellen Bass, Renee Winter, Rosie King, Nancy Miller, Barbara Leon, Laura Hagan, Ken Weisner and myself reading on a program with inmates—guys who’ve taken writing classes and written poems of their own. What was it like? Well, speaking for myself, reading Gloria, A Monologue to a dozen or so heavily tattooed guys in orange jump suits, one of whom said he was in for murder, it was a trial by fire. Chance meeting of very different individuals culminating in a feeling of communality and delight.
I was ready to stop after reading the first five pages. But they insisted… I ended up reading to the end, I read all 20 pages.
“I delight in this community, for its natural beauty, its intellectual vigor, creativity and for its openness to both traditional and experimental poetry. I consider the Poet Laureate someone who, steeped in the local and national poetry scene, celebrates and serves poetry and the cultural life in his or her local community. I would like nothing more than to contribute to the poetry and literary legacy of Santa Cruz.”