Poet Robert Mezey, 1935-2020

I keep a file labeled “100 Books,” which is a list of the best books I’ve read in my life. There aren’t really a hundred books on it yet. One of the books on my list exists only in manuscript: I had the extreme good fortune of reading a GBC-bound photocopy of that work. It is a translation of the poems of Jorge Luis Borges by the poets Robert Mezey and Dick Barnes, for which they never received permission to publish.

In 2017, Bob Mezey agreed to read at the Newburyport Literary Festival. In his correspondence he was fretful about his travel arrangements, about the sound system, about the amount of time he’d be given to read. And when he arrived, he appeared old and frail. My wife Gina attentively helped him get back and forth from his room at the inn to his reading. I’d arranged for Mezey to be the final reader, pairing him with Robert Shaw, saving the best for last. When it was Mezey’s turn, he asked for the microphone to be shut off, which didn’t seem like a good idea. Then he brought the audience in closer, where they gathered in a semi-circle near the podium, and he began his reading. It was something to see, something to hear: the authority returned to his voice, he read with great expression and a sense of humor. We saw laughter in his eyes, we heard more than personal sorrow in the words he spoke. He did me the great favor of reading his wonderful narrative poem, “The Golem,” which I’d requested. It was an unforgettable reading.

Robert Mezey died of pneumonia on Saturday, April 25. America has lost one of its finest poets.

Here is a link to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times, written by Dana Gioia.

“Talking All Night” on Youtube

Talking all night on Youtube sounds like something Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady would have done, had the technology been available. This is another kind of ambitiously spontaneous endeavor. Mark McDonnell and Mary Meriam have set up a Youtube channel called The Ballsians where you can hear poets read their work aloud, including several of the Powow River Poets: A. M. Juster, Kyle Potvin, and Andrew Szilvasy. Other talented contributors included Erica Dawson, David Southward, Rick Mullin and David Katz. Here’s a link to my reading.

A Brief Accident of Light Reviewed in Light

Thanks to Barbara Egel for her generous review of A Brief Accident of Light, my collaboration with Rhina Espaillat and illustrator Kate Sullivan, which appears in the new issue of Light Magazine. You can read it here.

The omnibus review also includes a consideration of Rhina’s masterpiece, And After All, as well as delightful new work by the incomparable A. E. Stallings.

A Moment of Silence for Tomie DePaola, 1934-2020

I have a great love of books for children. Is there anything better than reading to a little one? A current favorite of mine and, more importantly, little Cora, is Pokko and the Drum, by Matthew Forsythe. When my own children were young, we read all of Tomie dePaola’s books. They’re wonderful —probably because the man himself was full of wonder.

America Magazine posted this short video of the artist in his studio.

Juan Matos, New Poet Laureate of Worcester, Massachusetts

I’m happy for my friend Juan Matos! What a superb choice as poet laureate of Worcester, or of Anyplace-At- All! He’s not only an excellent poet —Rhina Espaillat, who should know, considers him one of the very best poets writing Spanish in the United States—but a dear, sweet man, with great reserves of dignity in him. To hear him read make me think of the famous Caedmon recordings of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

In this article printed in Worcester Magazine, he and Amina Mohammed talk about their reactions to being selected.as Worcester’s poet laureate and youth poet laureate, respectively. I found what each of them had to say profoundly moving. Congratulations and every blessing to them both!