Sometimes I get nostalgic and think about my classmates from my MFA years and how I adored so many of the poems I had the privilege of reading in those workshops and how much they taught me and spurred me to try new things. There was the one poem by Rebecca Vano that was an autumn scene I think, and there might have been a stick, or was it a squirrel; I can’t remember now that ten years have passed but what I do remember is thinking that nature was alive in her poem like it is in the best work of Snyder or Kinnell, that it wasn’t just landscape, a prop, rather the real deal. There was dirt in her poem, if not stated, then implied for sure, and wind and light and they lived and existed there as just themselves, not as hokey symbols.
I wanted that kind of presence in my poems. I can’t even claim to have had a floor with cheap carpet in my poems back then, much less the true ground. I wish more poems had real earth in them like Rebecca’s poem. Or more characters responding to other characters and not just our 21st century speaker in the way her husband David Vano’s poems were dramatic and electric. It was David who first introduced me to Jack Gilbert’s work, Monolithos I think it was, and then to Frank Bidart. I still remember Orpheus being torn to bits in one of David’s poems and how in spite of his death there was still music, and I think maybe there was a river too, and maybe it had rocks over which the water flowed, rocks against which the head of Orpheus rested and sang. I wanted that kind of drama in my poems, the kind Frost and Yeats made their own.
I’ve missed reading the poems of the Vanos these last ten odd years and so it was with great delight when a couple of months ago David wrote me and said he had a new poem in the hopper and would I read it. Of course!, I shouted across the electronic ether and so before long I was in it again, a student happily lost in David’s poem, happily reveling in lines like this:
Now there are villagers who believe that the Giant Swift was no swift but God
and that since God had withdrawn His antiquarian gaze from this dark village,
we would be abandoned like dreams or the world’s poor. But in that night…
These lines unfold across the page like a wing. How lucky I felt to again be able to watch his mind take flight. I can only hope he will send me more. Maybe Christmas or the New Year will even bring me a poem by Rebecca. Or Groundhog Day or St. Patrick’s will bring more poems by David and did I mention he’s a wonderful painter too! Perhaps it’ll be Easter that brings me the voices of other friends I haven’t read in far too long. Maybe I shouldn’t wait on fortune or destiny or happenstance. Maybe today we should all make our own luck and choose a friend we haven’t heard from in awhile and say, “I missed you and thought I’d write you a little something.”