Mystical Harrison


What do you sing at a friend’s wake?

It shouldn’t be a sad song – do you really want to add dark clouds when the loss, especially like this one, is already so sad?

My buddy was 48 and a regular tennis player … and he collapsed on the court from a massive heart attack.

He also happened to be a songwriter (actual, professional) and a well-known emcee of open-mic shows in Southern California.  So, last night, his widow organized a final open-mic night at the funeral home … to send him off.

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A collapsed sun in your pocket: The poetry of Michael Odom

odomI once wrote in this column that Michael Odom’s poetry reminded me in certain aspects—not in every way, of course, because he is not derivative; his voice is truly original and unique—of the poetry of Dylan Thomas.

Startling imagery, unexpected words yoked together by violence, a certain defiant voice … when I read Odom, I’m reminded of  Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle” and “Sullen Art.”

Some of the poetry in Odom’s recent collection Selene possesses that same defiance, and I think these poems may appeal especially to men of a certain age – either those in their early twenties or those in their late 40s (like me).

Why?  Because these two age groups are connected by their relationship to ideals and the hopes they carry for their lives.

The twentysomethings dismiss the 9-t- 5 treadmill and believe that life holds more for them, that they’ll overcome that treadmill soon enough; the fortysomethings dismiss that same treadmill even as they recognize they’ve been walking on it for the past twenty years.

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A pale view of Hill


For I will consider my cat Jeoffry…

We lost a major figure in the world of poetry at the end of June, Geoffrey Hill, and as I’ve scrolled through the posts of Call of the Siren, I realize I haven’t written very much lately … but when I have, some of it seems to have been about Hill.

Maybe that’s because no one – aside from talking to W.S. Merwin a few years ago and listening to him describe visiting Ezra Pound – has given me a greater sense of poetry’s living tradition than when I sat at a table and listened to Hill talk about Eliot, Hopkins, Thomas Wyatt, Dryden, Auden, Lowell, Southwell, and so many others.

I studied with him in the graduate program at Boston University in the 1990s.   When I enrolled, I had no idea the maker of Mercian Hymns was on the faculty, and when I learned that he was, I rushed over to his office to sign up for his class on poetry and religion. I was gushing with excitement as I reached the top floor and entered his office.

“I’m so happy to have found you!” I said as I set my Add slip on the desk in front of him.

“Found me?” he said, looking up. “I didn’t know I was hidden. I’ve been here three years.”

He gave me that trademark look you find in the Guardian photo accompanying this post. I think this photo was taken around the time he lived in Brookline and taught at BU. That’s the way he looked when I made my gushing declaration on that autumn day in his office.

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