Ted Greenwald and I had been friends for more than 40 years. Around 1973, I saw a poem of his in a poetry magazine & loved it. I don’t remember the poem or the magazine. But I got in touch with him soon thereafter and we became lifelong friends. Ted would come to DC to do readings and hang out. And I would see him in New York on my visits back to my native city. He died earlier today and I will miss him greatly, as will his many other friends.
And he was a true friend and steadfast comrade. He was also a brilliant and stunningly productive poet. I believe that recognition of the significance of his achievement as a writer will only increase with the passage of time.
We talked---for the last time, as it turned out---last month. He had been sick for a number of years, but was doing better and sounded optimistic. And whatever the conditions of his life, he remained prolific to the end, with several new books out this year alone.
Ted was the most straightforward, no-bullshit person I’ve ever known. He told you exactly what he thought in a style that could sometimes be imperative, but which I always took delight in. He insisted, e.g., back in the ‘80s that I figure out quickly how to get a song I had written, which was very Irish and traditional-sounding and which Ted loved, to Frank Sinatra. He was convinced that Frank would jump at the chance to record my song. Ted dismissed my argument that this song didn’t really seem to be up Frank’s alley. He was like that as a friend---fiercely loyal and full of appreciation and affection.
Here’s an excerpt from a review I wrote of one of Ted’s books: “Ted Greenwald’s work has always been rooted in speech, street language, word of mouth. ...Greenwald often conjoins street talk and technical innovation. ...Ted Greenwald knows what real American talk sounds like, understands the rhythm and pulse of the language, and knows how to write poems that are built around that knowledge. He is one of America’s most ambitious and provocative poets.”
I want to pick up the phone right now and call him back to us.