This is the second time a poetry reading by my buddy Jeremy Schraffenberger has elicited a post on the blog. Jeremy gave a Final Thursday Series reading last night at the Hearst Center for the Arts. Just like last time, Jeremy performed other people's poems along with his own — A. R. Ammons, Anne Sexton, and James Hearst — always such a genuinely nice gesture that broadens the idea of what a poetry reading is and can be. (Yup, echoes of Dana Gioia Gioia Gioia).
In any case, the inspiration for this post is that in the
Elegy— an acrostic sonnet for Jim HiDukeFrost once called his poems "little bits of
Order"— smoke rings wafting in a darkened
Room, the pen glinting in lamplight, sweet love.
Jim would sketch, scratching a woman's face on
A grocery slip, a face like rain in sky.
Morning drizzle, clean swing, white ball arcing,
Edges the green, a yard from the hole, just shy,
So close, always so close. The fish of legend
Hooked, almost in the boat, then the line . . . snapped.
In the darkened room, that trout would resurrect,
Dull shine snagged now on a line of words — grammar,
Unity, syntax — Jim's days always carved, shaped,
Kindled, like Jack London's last match, last cigarette,
Earning love, life through tight devotion to order.
— Vince Gotera, from the Dr. Grammar website.
First appeared as a memorial to Jim in the
North American Review (2004).
Jim Hiduke was my colleague at the University of Northern Iowa. He died of a heart attack at his home on
Below: Jim in persona as Dr. Grammar
In posts on this blog, I usually talk about craft and technique. Today, however, let's keep the focus on Jim and Jeremy. Suffice it to say that since the poem is an acrostic, you should also read down the page: look at the first letter of each line. In terms of "sonnet-ness," it's a hybrid. 'Nuff said.
Jeremy, thanks for a magical reading: a marvelous evening of excellent poems and also excellent patter with just the right touches of humor. You really know how to work a room. I wish you the best of luck in your career as a poet and also as a professor at UNI. I hope that I — now a senior faculty member, yikes! — have been as good a friend to you as Jim was to me when I was a newbie.