Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Memory and Keith Waldrop

Speaking about memories and why it’s good to have them: April is Poetry Month and so every day I get a poem in my email inbox. Today a poem by Keith Waldrop arrived, and it is wonderful. It is additionally wonderful to remember Keith Waldrop, as I knew him, back when I was in grad school at Brown, where I assume he still teaches.
It was the late 1970s. Each week I had a writing seminar with John Hawkes and for reasons buried in the mists of time (We could drink and smoke?) our class met in the Waldrops’ living room on Elmgrove Avenue in Providence.
Theirs was a special house. Keith was allergic to sunlight, so I was told, hence all the windows were covered with curtains randomly safety-pinned shut. Burning Deck Press was in the basement. There were more books in that house and more books in odd places, than I had ever seen. Books were piled from floor to ceiling everywhere. Books were piled in the bathroom and the kitchen. If you opened a closet – why was I opening their closets? – they too were filled with books. There were countless books I’d never read, but every single one was a book I knew I would like to read or have read or have the wits or languages to read. Because along with being solar-phobic poets and publishers, the Waldrops were polymaths and multi-lingual.
They were also a visually striking couple: Rosemarie was beautiful and elegant, in a European way; Keith – born in the American heartland – had straight long hair and a Rip van Winkle beard.
It’s frightening to think of all the things it is possible to forget.
Such as the time the Waldrops came to dinner and the light fixture over the table came crashing down onto our meal and there were glass shards everywhere.

1 comment:

Rebecca Rice said...

I don't know Keith Waldrop, but I love your description of meeting in his home for your writing seminar with John Hawkes.

Thanks for bringing a little sunlight into this dreary, rainy day in April, which, as T.S. Eliot said, is "the cruelest month, mixing memory and desire."