Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Forrest Gander

A friend of mine, Forrest Gander, recently received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Forrest was the husband of C.D.Wright, award winning poet who had commissioned the first piece of furniture that I'd made that was to be accepted in the pages of Fine Woodworking Magazine. Forrest and C.D. had lived in a small house on Owen St. here in Eureka Springs before poetry led them on to bigger things.

Some write on paper, some write with wood, but collaboration makes us strong. A few years back when I was attending a conference in Rhode Island, I was grateful to sit with C.D. for tea at the table I had made.

Back in the fall of 1969, I was particularly distressed in my study at Hastings College, and decided to make an immediate adjustment to my graduation strategy. I took an independent study class in creative writing, and enrolled in a pottery class. The pottery class had the greater effect. The independent study was easy. I would show up once a week with something I'd written and that ended up with my publication of a series of poems  in the annual school literary publication with little meaning or effect, and a recommendation from my professor that I continue study toward an MFA in creative writing at the University of Arkansas. He offered to write letters of recommendation, but I was more deeply concerned with figuring what I was going to do to keep from being drafted for Viet Nam. I ended up in Arkansas anyway, but not at the U of A.

Later, while performing alternative service for the draft in Memphis, Tennessee, I attended a poetry reading event, and listened while young poets poured their hearts out. Poetry makes greater sense to me when there's an underlying experience upon which to build the narrative. But that's me, I guess. 

Still, there is a link between crafting with words and crafting with wood. A well crafted table for instance, may look as though it slid easily from a forest of trees, just as a well crafted poem might feel to slide easily from the tongue. And I've wondered about my friend Forrest, whether his name has made him feel more deeply connected to wood. I offer my sincere congratulations to Forrest Gander.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in building lives, likewise.

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