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Wednesday
Mar062019

My friend the minor poet

I'm revealing the name of the poet I walk with, the poet I refer to in the previous post, the poet with whom I walk and talk about death, often hilariously, until we come to the end of our walk and say goodbye to one another as if to say, "see you soon", or "can't wait to see you next."

His name is Rainier B. I reveal only his first name and the first initial of his last so that he will remain anonymous and his status as a minor poet not be disturbed, for a minor poet he is and a minor poet is all he wants to be.

He likes to drink beer and take long walks. I neither like or dislike drinking beer, it's just that beer doesn't do much for me, I much prefer martinis and dry white wine, but Rainier likes beer and I've seen him drink more than one beer at the end of one of our walks should we wind up near the beer garden on The Great Highway, which we so often do. 

So Rainier drinks beer and I drink mineral water with a slice of lemon, it being too early in the day for me to drink a martini, and our conversation turns from death to poetry. The turn is unconscious, though I'm convinced it has something to so with the fact that we are seated, we're not walking and therefore, at rest we're able to reach a lower rung of contemplation; or perhaps we've wrung all the humor out of death while walking. In any event the subject's changed.

Rainier, I should mention, knows nothing of sports, so we can't talk about sports, something I can talk about with real authority. I know a great deal about sports--especially basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis--and am happy to talk about sports. Rainier claims never to have watched a sporting event in his life. I found this hard to believe until he told me the story of his Little League career, a career that didn't continue beyond his first official game. Placed by the coach in right field--the most unlikely spot for a ball to be hit--Rainier became quickly disinterested in the game at hand, never liking the sport in the first place, and walked from right field straight home with one out the third innning, his home being near the Little League field.

Minor poetry is Rainier's forte, he's as good a minor poet as there is. His poems are both challenging and comforting, and how many poets can that be said of? If you were to look at him the last thing you'd think he is is a poet, much less a minor poet. Rainier dresses a little oddly, wears shorts even in cold weather, and you can tell he gets the most out of his clothes, that is, he wears them until they're almost worn out. Rainier looks like a housepainter or a gardener, both of which he's been at certain times in his life, a man who's earned his living as a laborer, which he did and still does occasionally. 

He helped pull a big stump out of my garden the other day. I'd chopped down a camilla tree, I could see it was dying and the failing colors of the leaves were visually distressing to me, so I got the axe, sharpened the saw and cut the thing to the ground. The stump however remained rooted, with just enough of its severed head sticking up aboveground to be an eyesore and cause potential problems for anyone walking in the garden not knowing they might be attacked by a stump.

Rainer took note of the situation, then asked if I had a shovel and a pick. He dug a hole around the stump with the shovel, then grabbed the stump with his left hand and drove the pick into the hole with his right hand until it reached the bottom of the root, creating a perfect wedge. After wiggling the pick around in the dirt for a few seconds Rainer brought the whole stump, root and all, to the surface. It's beautiful, the root. I'm keeping it, letting it dry out so that I can make an artwork out of it sometime in the future.

I've read Rainier's poems. He gave me two of his little books when we first met, but only after I'd said how much I admire minor poets, that the strength of any county could be measured by the quality not of its major poets but of its minor poets. I read Rainer's poems every so often, picking up one of his books and opening it, as I like to do with books of poems, at random: I always find something worthwhile when reading Rainer's poems, something that confirms the reality of the world I'm living in but is also amused enough by its reality to to also offer small, unexpected alternatives. I don't know that Rainier possesses a great deal of technical skill--his poems are more or less elemental, simple, natural: his skill seems to me to come from the innocence of his heart, its direct earnestness, and the actual pleasure he takes in the world as he finds it. To be able to write this way is a great achievement, though I don't tell him this, I only tell him that I read his poems once in a great while the same way he tell me he reads mine.

Minor poets are bedrock, and for me Rainer is an essential minor poet.

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