Tuesday, May 26, 2009


But a busy one in many ways.

Saw old friends up in the Berkshires, including ones not seen in almost two decades from the West Coast. Had a great "cook out" Sunday at my older son's and his lovely wife's at which old friends passed a guitar around and played songs they'd written or knew (poet Annabel Lee strumming and singing old timey country kind of songs so authentically we were transported to Appalachia in the early 20th Century; Michael O'Keefe singing and playing his own compositions that had the feel of traditional Americana as well, and my older son Miles playing and singing a song about Geronimo Pratt and his surviving years in prison and solitary confinement after being falsely accused and locked up for decades, and Kale brown leading us all in "May the Circle be Unbroken") after hours of great conversation and food (my son Miles and my daughter-in-law Jen make a mean burger).

Drove back yesterday on what seemed like the most beautiful day of the year so far to drop off my little guy with his mom and catch a train to the city to take part in the tribute reading for George Schneeman at St. Mark's (on the occasion of the publication of the Poetry Project in-house magazine The Recluse 5 tribute to George).

It wasn't so much old friends of George's (I was sorry to see that one of my alltime favorite poets, Maureen Owen, couldn't make it, other close friends of George's will be taking part in a more formal tribute in the Fall) though there were those of us who had known George for several decades (including Steven Hall who played guitar and sang a poignant song for George and Elinor Nauen who read her short but relevant haiku like poem and Cliff Fyman who read his alphabet poem made up entirely of words taken only from George's NY Times obituary, a very clever device that summarized George's life in a seemingly abstract and disjointed way but actually had a narrative drive and reality to it).

A highlight of the evening for me was listening to stories and poems and emotions about George from those who either knew him since they were kids as a close friend of their parents (Anselm and Edmund Berrigan and their cousin Will Yackulic, as well as Vincent Katz) or in more recent years as young immigrants to Manhattan who were welcomed by George and his wife Katie's hospitality and generosity and who were inspired and in many ways in awe of George's commitment to his art and to doing it outside the usual art world commercial considerations and networking (including the artist Pamela Lawton and the poets Todd Colby and and Gary Parrish).

Vincent especially moved me when he showed the audience a framed print of one of George's famous (at least to those of us who were fans of his art) checkered flannel shirts on a hanger, but this one with a poem written by his oldest child, Paul, when Paul was eighteen. Paul was the only representative of George's family there (his second son Elio having passed years ago, sadly, and his youngest Emil living in Southern California, and Katie at home with bronchitis) so it was doubly moving and I suspect surprsing to those who didn't know Paul wrote poetry, and compellingly original poetry it was.

And lastly, I want to thank everyone who sent birthday greetings via phone messages, emails and even a comment on this blog (thanks Jamie). As those of us who are lucky enough to have learned this: every day is a gift, so the only attitude that makes sense is gratitude. It's also the key to happiness, but that's another story.