I knew nothing about this book until I saw a poster for it — one that writer and book designer Kate Hargreaves dropped off to me at the University of Windsor. She slid it under my door when I was away. I saw the title: DREAMING OF LOST AMERICA, published by Guernica Editions. The office that I am in at the university is adjacent to the one McNamara used. On the other side of me was another giant in our literature down in this part of southwestern Ontario. That was John Ditzky. I have known Gene since the late 1960s when he published some of my poems in The Windsor Review magazine, a journal he started well over 40 years ago. I was a brash, young know-it-all poet, eager to share stories with the world. Gene gave me that opportunity in publishing my work. I am not sure why. I am not sure if it was my writing. I am not sure if it was something said that seemed convincing, but he took the time to listen, to read what I was writing, to encourage me. Friday night (yesterday) was pretty special. I haven’t seen Gene for quite some time. But he has this new book, and this was his launch at Biblioasis on Wyandotte Street here in Windsor. My daughter, Elise, who studied American Lit with McNamara, joined me. She didn’t want to miss the reading. She brought along Lucien, my 20-month grandson who devoured cookies with both hands at the back of the room and kept flipping open books. It was like old times when I used to bring my daughter to all my readings. She grew up among poets and artists, and so this was familiar territory. (And once when she was in McNamara’s American Lit class she wore a t-shirt with Walt Whitman’s image on the front, and Gene recognized the shirt because he had made these and sold them at the first Art in the Park that was held in Windsor. My daughter hadn’t known that — she had inherited the t-shirt from my drawer.) This book — Gene’s 16th collection — brings back a lot of these associations. He is a writer with a clear and profound vision of what is important, a master at fashioning the “story” behind the poem, and making it live in the imagination. Check out this book. The words sing and the images come alive on the page. Below is a photograph I took of Gene at the reading held at Biblioasis.
Marty! A wonderful note about Gene and an amazing picture. Kudos to the both of you!