He says he was a geek in school — not athletic or a band member. He thought he would become a poet to make himself stand out, carrying heavy books under his arm to enhance his biceps. He wore costumes. Finally after posing as a poet for some time, he decided he would actually try writing some poems. Now the immediate past U.S.Poet Laureate, we can all be glad that this was one kid who pursued his dream.
At 67 he grew up before television was served with dinner every night as a side dish. He was not distracted by gameboys and American Idol. He worked for over thirty years in the insurance industry, indulging and nurturing his writing habit every morning at 4:30 AM, before work. He is old enough to have over heard stories of the blizzard of 1888 and now to have written about them in short, first person narrative poems. He reads to us his valentines to the world, his snapshots of real life, a sensual poem about an ironing board, a poem with an empty purse. He likes poetry because he is a precise person and a poem is something that he can work to perfection, a piece of writing so tight that not a comma or word can be changed without diminishing the poem’s impact.
So many who have achieved so much less have such a greater opinion of themselves. He is a compact man in khakis and a tweed jacket. His eyes are kind and searching, honestly looking for answers to questions. I told him that I love quoting from his book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual in teacher workshops and he smiles and says he’s glad. As a human being he is well crafted, like a fine poem. His perspective is deep and rich.
I felt honored to shake the square hand that has produced such fine poetry read today without an extra layer of dramatic interpretation. Pure words recited in a common conversational font.