Poets and Pleasure Seekers

Yesterday was a strange day for me, a good day too. My wife has been running Spout Hill Press, a small press specializing in novellas and poetry, for a few years now, but she recently decided to sell it to a friend and move on to other things in her life. Yesterday was the last day for her as the President and her last act was to take me to meet for lunch with the author of her final book. The author also happened to be one of my early poetry mentors, Gerry Locklin, and she was publishing a book of his dealing that was equal parts autobiographical narrative and ekphrasis, poems about art.
It will be out in a week or so, and she was bringing him the final proof. I had nothing really to do with any of it, and although I had read some of it while they were working, I hadn’t read it in its complete form. My job at that lunch was to let them talk, so I read through the work and thought about the last twenty years of my life, where both of these people have featured so prominently.
I thought about the years when I took all of those literature and creative writing classes from Gerry. He was someone who could lecture each week, the full three hours, about a novel that had come out only months earlier. He explained historical context, biography, and whatever gifts it gave to those of us who wanted to be writers. He also put it into an artistic context discussing how it fit into the art movements of the day in a way that made sense to me. When it came time for him to advise me about my thesis, the precision of his discussion was amazing, and it became clear to me the amount of focus and mental clarity the man had about all aspects of the artistic process.
All of that came back to me yesterday as I leafed through his collection, Poets and Pleasure Seekers. All of that focus and attention to detail revealed itself in his craft and I had that same feeling of being in my twenties and listening to him talk as he stripped away the illusion that life is one thing and that art is another. For him, the two things are part of one larger thing. It’s what I love about ekphrasis, how the art gains larger context because of the way it fits into the poet’s life.
And I thought about the work that Ann has done over the past few years, the discipline she’s had in developing a single unified vision for her press. She’s an artist, and like Penguin all those years ago, she’s chosen books that together have a single emotion that fit into a single movement, and they are significantly brought together by her cover art. It’s a brilliant thing she’s done, and I am happy that she’s moving on because she wants new things in her life, but I’m equally proud of the work she’s achieved.

Mostly I sat there reading one of my favorite author’s work and thinking about how good it is to be a part of an artistic community. It’s exactly where I need to be.