BOB GRAY: Kindred SpiritsMore Info
Housatonic — I went to a poetry reading, an intimate affair. There were a dozen of us in the audience when, following a warm and personal introduction from the evening’s host, the poet entered and walked to the front of the room.
I recognized him; I’d seen him in the vestibule. He had a certain aura of benevolence about him, so typical, it seemed to me, of many slight men of average height, with graying beards and thinning hair.
He read his poems in measured tones, without undue drama or emotion. His works stood by themselves, by their words and cadences, and not by any tricks of voice or expression.
He seemed about my age, and I appreciated, as he read, what I understood as resonances of both vigor and mortality, of struggle and acceptance. I anticipated hearing all he had to say.\
After the final poem, the host thanked him for his reading and offered copies of his book for sale. The books could be, the host said, autographed as well.
I had enjoyed his work well enough to buy a copy and wait in line to have it inscribed.
When my turn came, I proffered my book, requested my inscription, and, as he signed, I told him I’d enjoyed the evening. He thanked me in the same gentle tone with which he’d read, but up close he seemed more brittle and edgy than he had when he was reading, and a little more on his guard as well.
Because his experience seemed similar to my own, I told him I’d appreciated the thread of mortality I’d heard running through his work.
He looked at me, a little surprised, a little uneasy, as if he’d been caught off guard; I’d maybe glimpsed a place in his soul where he hadn’t expected me to look. Glancing down and away, he muttered something about what I’d said being true in some of his later pieces, finished his writing, and walked away.
Later, I wondered if I’d struck a chord with him, whether I’d touched him or missed him by a mile. I had his book and his name, both of which he’d freely given, but had I, in my eagerness to connect with a kindred spirit, taken something more?