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Barry Spacks #2 – Writers’ Friendship Renewed
The irrepressible aliveness and weird wisdom of the father and son series should win it a lasting place in the literature of our day. -Globe & Mail, Toronto
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poet barry spacks

Re-activating my "Writers' Friendship / Writers' Enmity" series and may run the new edition here on this Redroom.com blog. Thinking of running one update and/or new contribution each week. Maybe call it "Friendship Friday." Some background:

Over a period of years I invited as many as 28 writers to contribute short essays on their experiences with writers' friendship. These appeared in Joan Houlihan's online publication, "Perihelion." The series began with an invitation I sent out to friends, colleagues and others saying, "How about a short piece--an essay, a story, a couple anecdotes--on writers' friendship? Your honest thoughts, no bullshit! We're looking for writers' experiences... what it's really like for one writer to keep up a friendship with another."

"Ted Solotaroff claims aggression is a writer's main source of energy," I wrote, "the fuel for all those stories and poems about betrayal and bad luck relationships... John Berryman said something similar: 'The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business.’"

In re-starting the series, I approached poet Barry Spacks, one of our first contributors. I asked his permission to reprint his early contribution and to feel free to update or alter anything he wished.

Barry responded saying, “I've set out the needed changes below, Robert, and of course you have my permission to go ahead with this feature, pleased that you thought of me.”

“The poem went through extensive changes before it appeared in my 2004 book THE HOPE OF THE AIR from Michigan State University Press, so I am pasting for convenience its present, finished form to be used on your site. Likewise with the bio note.”

(poem as it should appear):
An evening with his new book,
scent of the paper
like linen for the first time worn,
his reverence for loveliness
comes over me
like air before rain – remember? –
that freshness: cool, delicate…
though air so offered will lift at times
into a wind, a sting of sand
in the deluge that follows.
So the sweetness of this voice
in its sayings of loss
leaves taste of blood on the teeth,
tart taste
that can't be spit out or swallowed.
"Where will we go,"
asks one poem at the last,
"when they send us away from here?" –
the body gone
with all its familiar devisings,
and gone the mind that savored well
its unyielding will to continue.


Barry Spacks earns his keep as a persistently visiting professor at UC Santa Barbara after years of teaching at M.I.T. He's published many poems in various journals, paper and pixel, plus stories, two novels, and ten poetry collections, the most extensive of which is SPACKS STREET: NEW & SELECTED POEMS, from Johns Hopkins.  His most recent book is 2008's FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY from Cherry Grove Collections.