January 1, 2019

A Bad Year for Poets: Good Riddance 2018

Recently I saw on TV one of those end-of-year lists of “those we have lost in 2018” — mostly celebrities I didn’t know: “hairdressers” who never did my hair, chefs who never cooked for me, musicians I never listened to, TV “stars” I never watched, names I never even heard before. One can’t know everyone, can one? A few names I knew, among them those I hope are rotting in Hell: Billy Graham, George H.W. Bush, etc.

But I am also sad to mourn true stars like singer & civil rights activist Aretha Franklin — which brings me to the plethora of poets who passed on this year, more than in 2017 it seems, some internationally know, many US poet, but all too many local poets died who had graced the open mics & poetry readings we attend.

Sam Hamill, Split This Rock Poetry Festival, March 2012
Among the international/national poets who died were: Ursula Le Guin, Nicanor Parra, Colette Inez, Lucie Brock-Broido, Sam Hamill, Donald Hall, Tony Hoagland, & Ntozake Shange.

The “local” poets who have gone to that poetry reading in the sky include not only those who lived in the Capital Region, but also poets who have read here, including at the Third Thursday Poetry Night, Poets in the Park, or have other connections to this region, &, of course, some of these are also poets of “national” or “international” repetition. These include:

John Abbuhl, physician & founder of the Pine Hollow Arboretum
Jill Hays, a Vermont poet whom I met at John Montague’s poetry workshop at the Writers Institute
Gerrit Lansing, Gloucester poet who was born in Troy, NY & was a mentor to many young poets
Jackie Sheeler, NYC poet who read at the Third Thursday Poetry Night in February 2011
Anne Marfey, activist & author of Shake Hands Touch Hearts
Paul Pines, whom I first met when he owned the jazz club Tin Palace on the corner of Bowery & 2nd St. NYC, a prolific poet who read at many venues here, & was also the driving force behind the annual Lake George Jazz Weekend

Harry Staley, Cafe Web, 1998
Harry Staley, beloved professor at SUNY Albany, peace activist, & poet
Jay Wenk, World War II veteran, active with Veterans For Peace, read in Poets in the Park, a fixture at open mics in Woodstock
Donald Lev, who, with his wife Enid Dame, published Home Planet News for many years, & was a eminence in the Woodstock/Kingston poetry scene
Jim Flosdorf, poet, photographer & conservationist/naturalist
Brio Burgess, poet, performance artist
Millie DiBlasi, poet, pianist, host of poetry venues such as “Full Moon Poets” at Mother Earth Cafe
Donald Faulkner, former director of the New York State Writers Institute
Ken Denberg, poet, past director of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & publisher of Snail’s Pace Review

Let’s hope that 2019 will be a little kinder — but then, aren’t we all “Future Dead Poets of America”?

Keep writing.

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