Daily Prompt Teen Age Idol Who did you idolize as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?
I loved his poetry. I did “oral interpretation of poetry” with his poems at various times in high school. I thought they were beautiful because they escaped the “tyranny” of rhyme and meter. This one made a necessary point about the world we lived in (as I saw it then; now I know it’s just the world, period. Not then, not now but always…). When I learned he was coming to MY city (a small city then) and would be speaking at the local college, Colorado College, I was so excited! I persuaded my boyfriend, Eddy Bayleaf, to take me. We waited outside the college chapel and we were the first inside; we sat in the front row. It was — for me — like a rock concert.
He appeared, surrounded by cute Berkeley groupies. He took the stage. He began to read from his newest poem. It was awful. It was political rant, nothing more. OK, the point that he viewed Nixon as a tyrant was clear but so what? Where was the universality in THAT? Nixon would come and he would go and that would be that. But the groupies were eating it up! “Oh, how wonderful you are, old guy, writing about Nixon and being groovy.”
I was appalled. And bored. And “de”inspired. I whispered in Eddy’s ear, “This is awful. How can he do this? This isn’t poetry! Let’s leave.”
“OK, if you want. We can go.”
“I want to tell him this is awful, though. He shouldn’t write this.”
“I don’t know how you can do that. Write him a letter?”
“No. Let’s go out the back door.”
The back door of the chapel was BEHIND the stage. To get there, we had to walk OVER the stage. I wanted to do that. I wanted to make my statement, write my poem, show my contempt, that way. We got up, Eddy, a couple friends who’d met us there, and I and walked across the stage. We interrupted the reading of this “poem” and caused a mild disturbance but then we were gone and that ended that…
2005 my friend Denis Joseph Francis Callahan asked me to go with him to hear this poet read in La Jolla. I was stunned. “That guy’s still alive? He broke my heart.”
“You know him?”
“No, but…” And so I told him the story.
“So will you come then?” asked DJF
I went. A tall old man — resembling the middle aged man I’d seen some thirty years earlier — stood up with his new book and read to a bunch of us. His poems were good and he was nice. When he finished, a long line formed to buy the poems and get the autograph. Denis joined the line. “Are you getting a book?” he asked. Most of the poems were about New York, DJF’s home. I could appreciate the poems, but the strong local flavor gave them a certain elitist aspect. They were decent poems, but not my poems. They were vivid, lovely, verbal drawings, sketches, of a world I did not need to own.
“No. I liked the reading but I don’t need to own the book.”
“You want to go get something to eat? I can come back and do this. He’ll be here for an hour or so.”
I forgave Lawrence Ferlinghetti that night, not that he knew or even would have cared. He’d returned to poetry and I’d had a great time.