Saturday, August 05, 2006
In winter 1947, my father, who had just turned 20, crashed a Cessna whose wings had iced up near
In August 1965, while working as an electrician at a paper recycling plant in
Jack Spicer also died that week, just 40. Poets, like rock musicians & revolutionaries, have a rep for not living all that long. Over the years, I’ve gradually ticked off all the major poets who have had shorter lives than mine, a list that now includes Shakespeare (52 years old when he died), Dante (56), Chaucer (57) & Charles Olson (59). For me, tho, the real marker of age came some time back, in April of 1985, when I had thus outlived my own father.
So today I’m 60. I’ve been lucky. When my father was in the hospital with his broken back, I had a bad case of pneumonia, so bad according to my mother (I was all of six months old at the time & have no memory of this whatsoever) that the doctor had filled out a death certificate, leaving only the time of death blank. Fortunately, penicillin saved my life. That was just the first of a number of worst-case-scenario “could have beens” that I somehow sidestepped. Even in the past decade, the Department of Energy flew me to Seattle just to check out my thyroid – I was a “down-wind” baby back in the good old days when the Hanford Nuclear Reactor (the facility that built the bomb dropped on Nagasaki) took care of radioactive waste by putting it into steel drums buried next to the Columbia River. I made it through that one too.
I really don’t have a sense of myself being “old,” tho my twins may tell you I’m ancient & my knees might agree. I’ve been fortunate to finish the first three stages of my lifework – The Age of Huts, Tjanting and The Alphabet – and I hope in the next couple of years to have all in print at the same time, including the first complete version of The Age of Huts. I’ve come to understand that getting your work in print is one challenge – keeping it in print is a difficulty of a whole other level. Here too, I’ve been lucky & I know it.
Universe is getting started nicely, tho I can’t quite imagine how I’ll live long enough to finish it – the plan is for 360 booklength poems. So I’m building that eventuality into the form, or trying to. Or kidding myself that I can. In any event, the road ahead is clear. I have a great family. I enjoy my work. My health is not bad.I never saw anyone put this circumstance, or ones much like it, better than Bob Creeley: Onward!