Tuesday, October 2, 2012

calling out to the aether

Baltimore poet and literary mainstay Chris Toll died last week, and I went to his memorial service yesterday. Seeing how many lives he'd touched, and how many of us learned something new about him from this, was illuminating. The Baltimore writing community already misses him. Adam Robinson put it very well last night: "I don't want to remember him at all. I want him here."

In fact, I kept expecting to see him during the reception at Thai One On in Towson, because everyone else was there and he never missed a reading/event/anything.

I have two important Chris Toll memories, both from Artichoke Haircut readings. Chris was there, of course, when I read a telegram poem in public for the first time, and told me he thought it was funny. He also said that there was a real poem in there, even though I didn't see it yet, and to not let it get away once I found it. I didn't know what he meant at the time, but later I would realize that he was saying he had faith that my work would grow and develop. I still take that as a big compliment.

At a later Artichoke reading, I wrote a poem during the intermission and read it when my name got called for the open mic. Chris thought that was really cool, and told me so, and said doing that stuff was important. That was a big compliment, too. Chris was exceptionally generous with his time and talents, and I think a lot of writers in Baltimore have similar stories.

There's a tribute to Chris over at HTML Giant, in which a lot of writers talk about him and his work and how much we valued them both. You should read it, and then read some of Chris' poems afterward.

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