In the Company of Poets
First read at the Poetry Project on the occasion of the Anselm Hollo Tribute Reading, June 5, 2013
When Anselm and I began our relationship thirty years ago, he was 48 and I was 28. I had been fortunate not to have lost any close friends up until then, but the deaths of my two grandmothers, the only grandparents I remember well, were strangely synchronized, occurring within six weeks of one another. I was in college, and the one-two blow of that loss was so traumatic to my family that my parents and sisters and I all mourned separately, as if we were strangers. I had learned to guard my heartstrings carefully, so, when Anselm told me about the death of his dear friend, Ted Berrigan, just one month before we met, I realize now that I could barely comprehend the import of such a loss.
As I grew closer to Anselm, the degree to which he cherished his friends was revelatory. Some, like Paul Blackburn and Charles Olson, had already passed away, and Pentti Saarikoski, Anselm’s Finnish friend and colleague whose work he delighted in translating into English, had died just one month after Ted and, like Ted, just short of his 50th birthday. But Anselm told me stories about these dear friends and read their poems to me so they would become part of my world, so I would be in a better position to partake of his world. As we began to travel together, I was awed by the geographic distribution of Anselm’s circle of loved ones and how graciously they all welcomed me into their community. Not being an aspiring poet or even much of a reader of poetry myself, I wasn’t as star-struck as I otherwise might have been, but it became clearer by the day that friendships were literally the center of Anselm’s life.
As time went by, especially when we arrived in Boulder, where Anselm and I essentially “grew up” together when we both stopped drinking, I began to experience, for the first time, the heightened energy and enthusiasm that can occur when individuals feel connected to one another through some kind of shared aesthetic commitment. I soon realized that to be a part of such a community is one of life’s great gifts — something to be cherished and nurtured until the end. It is its own reward.
I have no explanation the for the alchemy of how such a community comes to be, but I was visiting with Larry Fagin and Susan Noel a couple of days ago, turning the pages of the beautiful book, “Painters and Poets” from Tibor de Nagy, and I asked Larry, “How is it, do you think, that all of these poets and artists managed to form such enduring friendships?” “I will tell you the reason,” he said. “It is because we were the last generation to fly in propeller airplanes.”
Read all five full remembrances here.