Yesterday I was interviewed on WFAE in Charlotte along with Richard Blanco who, of course, read at President Obama’s second inauguration and who was in Charlotte as the big literary draw at this year’s Sensoria Festival, hosted by Central Piedmont Community College. Listen to the interview here.
I liked him at once. He had the earthy, rumpled, regular-guy look of someone who’d become instantly and unexpectedly famous, whose phone rang off the hook, who couldn’t remember where he was day to day because his life was an insane round-robin of airplanes, taxis, and kind strangers hustling him into auditoriums and classrooms and asking him to extemporaneously and elegantly hold forth on the virtues of poetry. Clutching his coffee, he whispered when we met: “I’m not a morning poet.” The nice people at WFAE brought him more coffee while he nibbled from a scone secreted in his book bag on the floor.
Blanco, actually, is no stranger to North Carolina. He and Ted Wojtasik, a fine novelist and Creative Writing professor at Saint Andrews University In Laurinburg, NC – a well-know writing Mecca for years in North Carolina – are good friends. Ted had leaked to me in an email on January 13, 2013 that Blanco had announced to him (when it was safe to do so) that he had been chosen to read at the inauguration. At any rate, Blanco, prior to his appearance at the inauguration, had read twice at Saint Andrews and, most recently, on February 28, 2013 – a little less than six weeks after his extraordinary performance in DC – so I was most gratified to hear Richard ask about “Ron.”
Ron is, of course, Ronald H. Bayes, whom I claim as my Literary Godfather, winner of the North Carolina Award for Literature and author of well over a dozen books, one of the most influential poets and teachers in North Carolina, and beyond, over the past 45 years. In fact, Ron started in 1969, the
Saint Andrews Writers Forum, now in its 45th year – some 2000-plus Thursdays featuring Pulitzer prize winners to police officers and everything in between. Here’s a poem by Ron and a wonderful memoir of legendary poet Stanley Kunitz by Ted.
Happy Birthday, as well, to the fabulous Johnny Dodds. How about a little of Johhny’s old style jazz clarinet on “Pencil Papa.”