Two years ago I got the chance to finally meet an old friend face-to-face. Stuart and I had been talking online since the days of the Gay Fatherhood dot-com website that I used to run, even back to when it was an MSN group. Does anyone else remember those MSN groups? I kind of miss them, to be honest. Facebook has been just too much lately. But that’s another story. And I can’t entirely dislike Facebook as it brought a certain video to my attention in one of those “memory” posts last week.
Stu and I finally had our meet up when he came over from Australia to visit his son Rho in NYC. They were heading across Pennsylvania to see to Frank Lloyd Wight’s “Falling Water.” And we managed to meet up at a sidewalk cafe where I had worked years ago. And before they moved on in their journey west, I took them to see my beautiful Susquehanna River just a few blocks away, where Stuart had asked to film my reading of a poem.
He wanted it to be a poem that spoke to that time in my life, something to remember the spirit of the moment. I had been reading a lot of what is called mindfulness poetry at the time, particularly poems from the web project A Year of Being Here. It looks like those poems have now been collected into a book. Anyway, it was hard to choose which poem to read; so many had seemed like lifelines at that time. My family had been through a lot, health problems, a move, a new job, and my youngest son coming to stay with us after a long stay in the hospital.
So I came to that meeting with three poems and decided at the last-minute on “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford, which Stuart filmed on his iPhone while I sat on an upturned rowboat by the water. Days later, I recorded all three of them on SoundCloud and wrote about them in three separate blog posts. Here’s a little quote from that blog post that came to mind today:
So, should you be careful when you meet people online? Sure, just as careful as you are when you meet people face-to-face. Notice I did not say, “in the real world,” because even if the person is pretending to be someone they are not, you are still in the real world. It’s harder to hide your true self these days, and maybe it’s even easier to hide in-person. But that’s a discussion for another day. The point is, the real world includes electronic communication like we saw only in Star Trek while we were growing up. Skype, Face-time, Hangouts, there are a hundred ways to get to know a friend in Spain, Brazil, Germany, California, or in Stuart’s case, Australia.
The downside to SoundCloud is that there is absolutely no way, even for paid members, I think, to stop the continuous play, which will go on into my playlist and down a rabbit hole of “related posts.” Stuart doesn’t seem to mind that, as it gave him some inside into a lot of other things I was listening to.
But I thought it would be good to bring the three of them together in one post as a playlist for you. And in case you haven’t clicked on that little cloud icon in the footer area at the bottom of the page (or where it used to be in the sidebar), you might not realize that I have about 60 recordings of poems on SoundCloud. You can see the whole list by clicking here. Before that, I was on YouTube, and there are some real classics there, including some blurry webcam footage from my old laptop back in 2008. You can get lost in about 140 recordings here.
With that commercial break out of the way, here is the playlist. Along with the William Stafford piece, you’ll hear “The Gate” by Marie Howe from her book What the Living Do (1998), and “Horses at Midnight Without a Moon,” from Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems (2012).
So much good news about my dear friend Stuart, but I’ll share that in a future post!
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It’s lovely to picture you on an upturned boat reading the Stafford poem. So relevant. How great to meet—in person— someone you know, but now know in a new way. Will go find the Stafford to re-read and take in again. Happy Monday!
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If you didn’t already go looking, here’s the text from the Poetry Foundation’s website. I should add the link to this post, as it’s a pretty dense poem, hard to take it all in at once.
I added links to the other two as well! Thanks for being here!