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 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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A Comic-Con footnote

Outside Comi-Con 2014, San Diego Convention Center.
Comic-Con 2014, San Diego Convention Center

I was standing outside the convention center for Comic-Con 2014 on Saturday — it was hot and noisy, and waiting for the traffic signal to change was even more unpleasant because of the Christian evangelicals positioned at various crosswalks.

As we waited to cross the street, they blasted our ears with their mini-speakers. All of us, they announced, were headed to H-E-double hockey sticks if we didn’t accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. A fiery punishment awaits  all unbelievers.

Unbelievers, at Comic-Con? I thought. Really?

There was plenty of belief on display inside and outside the venue. I didn’t dress up, but tons of people did: I saw witches and scarlet witches; zombies, vampires, and angels with elaborate, feathery wings; gladiators, King Arthurs, and Game of Thrones characters; manga girls and X-boys, and, of course, your traditional superheroes, too.


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