Here we are...

...a group of Baby Boomers of sundry religious,
political and cultural orientations, who have been
meeting at the Voorheesville Public Library since 1991
to read and discuss each other's poems.

We include old fathers and young grandmothers,
artists and musicians, and run-of-the-mill eccentrics.
Writers are welcome to stop in and stay if they like us.

Some of Us

Some of Us
Dennis Sullivan, Beverly Osborne, Tom Corrado, Edie Abrams, Art Willis, Alan Casline (all seated); Paul Amidon, Mike Burke, Tim Verhaegen, Mark O'Brien, Barbara Vink, Philomena Moriarty

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DIDGERIDOO from Dennis

Dear Poe-ettes,

As probably all are aware, a few weeks ago Arthur's [Arthur Willis] TO THE TUNE OF A DIDGERIDOO AND STICKS came out under the auspices of Benevolent Bird Press, very nicely done as we might expect from what we have seen from that press already. And done with great dispatch to accommodate the reality of the hour.

Arthur [Willis] had wanted to read that poem accompanied by a didgeridoo and sticks as advertised and plans were made for him to do so but they got scotched somehow. When the Bird [Alan Casline], poet and publisher of the Benevolent Bird imprint series, saw this to be the case he went to the Willis Farm in Quaker Street, New York on Tuesday August 24 to record Arthur reading his long poem. He accompanied Arthur with his hand-held skin drum.

[Incidentally, the next day, Arthur's wife Judy, told me the reading had taken such an emotional toll that the poem went to bed to rest, toll as in healthy catharsis.]

Later in his studio Tom Corrado, using dubbing measures and the like, added the didgeridoo and mbira [an African musical instrument consisting of a hollow gourd or wooden resonator and a number of usually metal strips that vibrate when plucked] to the recorded reading.

Also a part of the performance were the sweet girglings of Gaia, a bird perched on a tree-branch at the Willis farm who seemed to be sent by the gods to add nature?s trills to the event.

Yesterday, Saturday September 4 [my mother's birthday] the Bird, Edie [Abrams], and I headed to the Willis Farm to visit Arthur and play for him the recording of his latest and most beautiful poem.

What was most stunning to see at first, was the beautiful jewel case Bird had created for the CD, linen-like cover stock measuring 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 with a slit in the top to access the CD.

The front of the case sports a most extraordinary color design of SUN, MEETING PLACE, STAR, AND TWO CONNECTED SPRINGS, water color paintings in fact, in greens and blues and yellows and reds. They look like four Buddhist prayer flags two on top of two.

A note about this: anytime you go to a music store and buy a CD in a plastic-captioned jewel case in the future, after seeing this production, you will once again see reasons why the globalizing mercantile economy is such a sham. Bird has once again produced a great work of art.

And w/r/t the CD itself, its contents, Arthur's reading is a tour de force. He sounds like a mixture of Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Snyder, and Corso reading Beat poetry from a San Francisco loft. His voice has a rasp and urgency to it that is compelling.

Anyone who is a fan of Arthur's poetry or of good poetry or even feigns such, or who perhaps regards Arthur as a mensch of grand proportions, will want to get this CD as quickly as possible. Bird plans to make 100 with 30 already done.

And Tom Corrado's musical input is no icing on an already-delicious cake but an integral part of making the performance the tour de force I mentioned. His perfectly-timed and proportioned crescendos fit in perfectly and will get you.

And while Bird's drumming, when he performed with the Metamorphosis Trio, left much to be desired, here his contribution adds considerably as well. It too fits perfectly. This piece could have been done live in the basement of a Village coffeehouse in the late 1950s it is so good.

Before went into the house to listen to the recording, Bird read two beautiful poems he had written for Arthur, poems of deep feeling, expressing deep appreciation for his grand master of a friend. Hopefully we will get to hear them again sometime.

On the way out to Quaker Street, Edie remarked that she thought the last time we visited Arthur he did not remember her name. I was not sure he remembered mine.

I brought with me his earlier book of poems POET IN A FLYING SUIT (1986)?for which incidentally I set up a reading in St. Matthew's Church, Voorheesville, at which several hundred showed up to listen, a great afternoon with Arthur reading from the pulpit which I took out of my bag to show him, asking him what these were. He gave his attention to something else.

I then said: Arthur, what is my name? Do you know who I am? It was clear he was struggling to come up with something and then slyly he added, You are the maestro. I laughed heartily and said, what a trouble-maker you are and he laughed as heartily or nearly so.

Once again, like a simple bodhisattva, he spoke in aphorisms as if quoted from some religious scripture. He talked about the importance of sharing, that that is the essence of being human and that anyone who does not take that upon him- or herself hardly qualifies for the title of ser humano.

He spoke as well of the importance of meeting human needs at all levels in society, that that is the purpose of being together, and that that is our mission in life. Later he spoke about poetry, that is how he had responded to someone earlier about poetry, with: it is very hard to write a poem.

I told him while the four of us sat there, that there are people who play baseball, who hit the ball, catch a few fly balls, and then there are baseball players. And the latter in the sports world would be mighty careful to qualify themselves among the latter. I said the same is true for poets, there are those who write poems and read them and there are poets, yet the former speak of themselves as if poets, as if . . .

Finally, weeks ago Arthur's doctor told him that tea is good for cleansing the system so, once again he said yesterday?as he had told me many times?that the tea is beating the cancer and that that is a good sign. Yet later he did allude to the fact that he is dying. I felt for the first time yesterday he had found the words to tell what was going on in his heart?a start to a finish with dignity perhaps. I keep thinking of the end of Aldous Huxley and how his wife Laura cared for him with such dignity, meeting his needs at every step of the way. [See Mrs. Huxley?s memoir, THIS TIMELESS MOMENT: A PERSONAL VIEW OF ALDOUS HUXLEY? (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968)].

Art singled out the poetry of Tom Corrado, saying he is a real poet, and spoke of Jim Williams with such enthusiasm, how Jim has been a model for him, a mensch among menches.

Last night, laying in bed, I felt like I was dying too, a piece of me was drifting off to some place I had never known nor seen before. And it did not concern me. We will all be there and not in tune with actuarial statistics.

I will end by noting how this grand maestro of a teacher, Arthur, has had the courage to allow students to speak their hears and minds in his class, always capable of relating any curriculum-related materials to what they had to say at the moment, a quality of very rare and great teachers. His word was so respected that letters of recommendation greased the skids for many students to get into the most prestigious of colleges and universities. I saw it happen.

Several weeks ago, when the head of the Meeting House in Quaker Street asked Arthur what he would like the younger Quakers to know about being a Quaker, Arthur said, as I mentioned here before, how essential it is for a person to pay attention to the silence in her- or himself so that when a person speaks, she or he will not make an ass of her- or himself, not as in the person being concerned about being a fool, but as in not having taken the opportunity to be a contributor to the great venture we call life in community with something profound to say and be.

La Paz,


Dennis Sullivan
September 5, 2010
8:20 am
Voorheesville, New York

1 comment:

  1. A must have! 4 out of 5 Poets give this recording 5 thumbs up! :)