Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tom Disch, 1940-2008

Yesterday I noticed, on the Best American Poetry blog, there was a post announcing the death of the writer Tom Disch. Read it here. His obituary in the New York Times is here.

I mention this because, in my 11+ years in New York City, I have crossed paths with many writers and feel a certain pang when one of them leaves this world.

Here's an excerpt from my journal (back before blogging killed it) commemorating my meeting with Mr. Disch.

JAN 15 1999 8NPrince [on the N train between 8th Street and Prince] 5:40pm
Just spent a half hour chatting with the author/poet Tom Disch in a coffee
shop off of Union Square.

I had called him yesterday, out of the blue, asking him to sign books & he
agreed...[to meet me] this afternoon, after I got off of work.

I blaze out of work at 4:45 & make great time. We meet at 5, he asks about
me etc. & we talk about poetry & writing. Details?

He admired my "chutzpah" in calling out of the blue & asking him to sign.
Have I done this before? I mention Rachel [Wetzeon, who I had also
contacted previously and with whom I had met] & he seems surprised. In this
day and age, how do you know who to trust? etc. etc. "Well," I say, "the
worse thing that can happen is they say no." He corrects me: "Ah, not true.
The worst thing they can do is fall in love with you."

He doesn't like poetry readings, per se, & does them as favors.The money's
nice, but really they're drab, boring affairs.

He filled me in on some of his latest projects. And then, at 5:30, I bowed
out, & he was kind about it."

So that was that. I didn't record at the time that he did sign some books. In all, I have signatures from him in all 5 volumes of The Best American Poetry, in which he appeared, as well as a nice inscription in his 1997 book A Child's Garden of Grammar.

I don't recall ever seeing him again. Based on his comments about poetry readings, this is hardly surprising. I forgot about that comment he made which was really very funny: "the worst thing they can do is fall in love with you". Indeed.

Farewell, Mr. Disch, thank you for giving me a half hour of your time back in 1999.

1 comment:

Eric Valentine said...

That read as a beautiful experience BB.
I like Leonard Cohen and often wished at meeting him in person, (that could never happen.) but his songs get to me as much as his poetry.. :)