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About October Poet

(or: October Leaf)

October Poet—This website is based on a miracle, so to speak: a wonderful event (a ghostly message from a dying leaf). When I first posted it online, I used the poem's title (October Leaf). Coming from New England, I felt it important to broaden my handle to October Poet. That has always been for me the most powerful season, autumn, the season of harvesting and provisioning for survival through what the ancients called Mud Time, or No Time. More on that later.

Immortal Leaf—I thought I had written my last poem about forty years ago, but here I go again. On the evening of 2 December 2016, a stray leaf or poem (take your pick) fell into my hands. Just as the poem says, a string of tiny, chance events led me to what started as a cute little poem and ended as a huge emotional event. The leaf, which died in our driveway, and lay on our kitchen counter for days, had grown warm with ordinary household heat (during a chilly day relative to San Diego). When I raised it to my face with both hands, I was overwhelmed at the powerful vegetal smell this warm body still had within it—and by the mystery of life, and its brevity yet beauty. There was not a hint of rot or decay. The leaf smelled as fresh as if I'd picked it from its tree a minute ago. That has to be a miracle.

Lyric Poets, Immortal Leaves.—In so many ways, this poem is not just about a leaf, but is about me, and in fact about each of us who thinks about its mystery and its lesson. Professor Uhlig at the University of Connecticut taught us, in relation to Germanic lyric poets (Austro-Hungarian Rainer Maria Rilke 18751926 foremost in my mind) that most poets of that vintage flare out by age thirty. The poet in me accepted that notion, with poetic logic (as the young leaf accepts autumn, I suppose). I realized then (at around 19) that I would later devote my literary gift to prose; and so it has happened. I don't mean to sound grandiose, and I make no apology whatsoever for the depth of my faith.

My Army Days in Germany.—I spent the last half decade of my youth (ages 25-30) as a young enlisted guy in the Army. I felt lonely and exiled from 'the World,' as GIs far from home call it, and there I wrapped up my days as a poet and revved up my years as a novelist. I wrote a nostalgic reverie (fiction) full of longing for my lost past in New England. That is the novel On Saint Ronan Street, first published in 2016. I bundled sixty-four out of my nearly 500 poems written between age 8 and age 28 (or so) into a first poetry collection titled Pauses (registered copyright 1980). I found the manuscript for both the novel and the poetry collection in 2016 in my garage in San Diego, and published both this same year. More about all that soon.

The Mythical Age 27.—I went through a period of reverie in 2015-2016, thinking back to when I learned of the deaths at 27 of Jimi Hendrix (September 18, 1970), Janis Joplin (October 4, 1970), and Jim Morrison (July 3, 1971). More recently, Amy Winehouse ( 23 July 2011) joined that long list of illustrious, tragic, premature departees. People speak of the dreaded 27. I think there may be something to Professor Uhlig's thesis, which is human and organic, and involves the flare-out of youth in each of us (some more dramatically than others). I think Dr. Roger Gould, M.D. (Transformations, Touchstone Books, 1979) and (drawing heavily on Gould's research before he published his book) Gail Sheehy (Passages, 1976) are among those who have pioneered the study of predictable life stages and changes in men and women. I had the fortune, like many poets, of making a less drastic and far more delicious transition into prose, which I love just as well.

Prose Dilemma.—That leads, finally, to the point that a poet writing prose does not stop being a poet, and therefore his prose may be more richly stirred and served than the often craftsmanlike but less artisan-crafted fiction of many commercial authors. Jedem Tierchen sein Pläsierchen, the Germans say. To each his own. This is an important topic to me, which I'll address elsewhere for anyone who is interested. This website, however, looks like it's going to be primarily dedicated to my poetry. May those October Leaves become in some humble fashion linger long like the Immortal Leaf with which I had occasion to share a small sliver of time, and come away all the more rich for the experience. Thank you, Leaf.

Persephone.—I would make a bad joke or pun here, attributing my discovery to Leaf Erikson (as in Leif Erikson, Viking who sailed to Greenland a millennium ago). However, something in my soul strongly commands me to think there was a female nature in that leaf; so I will leaf her alone.