I'm not even sure what to confess this week.
A few weeks ago, my uncle--my only uncle, which makes him my favorite uncle, passed away. I wasn't able to go home for the funeral, but he's been on my mind and I know he's in a better place.
Also, this past weekend Phil Levine, my thesis adviser at NYU and a featured headliner at the 2014 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, passed away. All of that packed into this harsh winter we're having, and it's just been a lot packed into a few weeks.
Over the years, I've known a few poets who have been more than influences on me, they have been touchstones. Phil was certainly one of them. As a poet, I appreciated his strong narrative voice and his ability to look at everyday working-class people and bring dignity to their lives with poetry. He showed me the value of using my life in my work, and then go beyond that to broaden my perspective. As a teacher, he could see when I was struggling with words on the page and gave me ways to navigate through rough spots. If he didn't think you were being clear or truthful, he'd let you know. He could be harsh, but you felt like he had your best interest at heart. No bullshit. All of that has made me a better poet.
I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to bring him to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The audience was riveted. Along with Carol Ann Duffy, the two of them reading together was simply amazing. If you were in the audience that night you were privy to something special. It was so rewarding to spend a few minutes before and after the reading. I felt as if I had come full circle in my poetry life.
I mourn him as I raise a glass of red wine to him. To Phil. And to my uncle.
This past week I received a Pushcart Prize nomination. Member(s) of the prize committee selected my name for consideration. I'm thrilled! It's my third nomination, but the first from the board. I know there are those who think this prize doesn't matter, but I disagree. I work hard at my craft, so if fellow poets and editors feel my poetry is worthy of the recognition, then I'll take it--gladly. Writing is such as solitary process, so every once in a while, it's nice to get a tip of the hat from your peers.
Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. I'm. All. Set.