Friday, May 15, 2015

Franz Wright: A Remembrance

Here's a photo I took of Franz Wright reading at the Longfellow House in 2011 with Wesley McNair. In fact, I'm taking the pic over Wesley's shoulder. I went back to check my blog post about this reading, and, as I recall, they both seemed to enjoy talking to one another as well as the audience. I think Franz was in remission at this time, certainly he was well enough to read.

Well, what to say. I am saddened by his loss. In the Boston area, we've lost one of our most charismatic literary figures. I didn't know him well at all. But as an admirer I have been following his career since 2004. I have blog posts on him going back to 2007.

No doubt, he was, at times, curmudgeonly. He's been downright mean to a few of my friends. As recently as this past Massachusetts Poetry Festival, I considered having him as a feature--I just couldn't bank on his health. Neither could he. We just didn't know.

In September 2014, he had posted on his Facebook page that he was cancer-free after extensive treatments for lung and brain cancer, which he described as a "great black river" running through his family. All this time, he wrote at a furious pace, publishing an impressive amount of poems and books in the last few years. No matter what he had been through, I always has the sense that no matter what, everything would be okay. Back in September, he was looking to schedule readings and appearances.

A few years ago, before I was working with Mass Poetry, Franz reached out to me and asked if I wanted to have coffee with him. I agreed but we never did. He thought I was kind and that meant something to him, apparently. We would see each other occasionally at events and he was always pleasant. I don't have a lot of regrets in my life, but I'm kicking myself for not following through on that coffee.

Ahead of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in 2009, Franz recorded this interview at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop on Radio Open Source. This is how I choose to remember him: full of vigor, passionate about poetry.

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