Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"When Stepping into Darkness"

Today I learned that my life-long friend and poetry mentor, Keith Wilson, died.  He died a week ago today as I was making preparation to travel to Chicago for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Convention.  Without him, I would not have made this trip, nor would I have embarked upon the long journey into poetry that began for me in 1970 as a student in his poetry class at New Mexico State University, where he taught for more than three decades, both in his college classroom and in his kitchen classroom that served as cross-roads for major poets (including himself) of The New American Poetry, inspiring multiple generations of family, students and colleagues to write better and to live more nobly than they ever thought they could.

Keith's accomplishments and awards are too numerous to list--they can be found in the many eulogies and references to him and to his work both on line and in print without much difficulty. I was fortunate enough to be engaged with his life and his work--some 40 volumes of poetry--for almost 40 years through a life-long exchange of letters and poems--a collection that I will discuss later in another blog.  For now, I would like to post a poem of his that he entrusted to me in January of 2000--I do not know if it has seen the light of publication, or whether it is a poem he shared with me only, as it exists as an edited and re-edited series of hand-written scribbles on pocket-sized yellow paper, with the note:  "The first poem of the new century!  1/13/2000."

I can think of no more fitting words for Keith's passing than those in his final draft:

When Stepping into Darkness

Begin by throwing words
that spread, light,
colors
Darkness is,
after all, only the absence
of light.
Paint
on canvas, wood or paper
will do as well as
singing, dancing sculpting
all colors and meaning
into a blue swirl of doorway,
joy.


Keith, my dear friend, you painted that doorway quite well.  I only hope that as you danced through it, you took with you an equal measure of the same joy that you left for us.


1 comment:

the foundling said...

Beautiful work, Terry. Sorry to hear about your friend. I'm looking forward to finding out more about him & his work. Thanks for making us aware. More soon, hermano. Be well...