Monday, September 10, 2012

Guess Who I Ran Into. Sort Of.

Wedged in among all the classes I had to take in college (I'm sure you know how that goes) was one class I took because it was what I wanted - a class on poetry writing. Professor Jeanne E. Clark, a published poet herself, diligently filled our reading list with many wonderful contemporary poets and brought several of them to speak with us in class.

As I was wandering around the interwebs the other day, (a seeming non sequitur) I ran across the title to an article that rang a bell way in the back of my head. (Does that ever happen to you?) The article was entitled, The Solipsist in Purgatory: Jollimore’s AT LAKE SCUCOG, and it should have sounded familiar. I knew the poet (sort of) to whom it was referring.

Troy Jollimore (the poet at the core of the article and this post) was one of the poets we read in class that semester. Once I made the connection, memories came flooding back. He was also one of the poets who came to speak with us. And notice I said "with," not "to." The class was very much a fun, friendly discussion among people who loved poetry.

That day he read from his first book of poetry, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and was, of course, our assigned reading. I remember him as a pleasant man with an enjoyable sense of humor.

Currently he is a professor in the philosophy department at California State University, Chico, and has written books of both poetry and philosophy.

Here is a poem that caught my breath when I first read it. I truly recognize the feeling of regret at too much caution, and the desperate desire to undo that which cannot be undone.


I’d like to take back my not saying to you
those things that, out of politeness, or caution,
I kept to myself. And, if I may —
though this might perhaps stretch the rules —I’d like
to take back your not saying some of the things
that you never said, like “I love you” and “Won’t you
come home with me,” or telling me, which
you in fact never did, perhaps in the newly
refurbished café at the Vancouver Art
Gallery as fresh drops of the downpour from which
we’d sought shelter glinted in your hair like jewels,
or windshields of cars as seen from a plane
that has just taken off or is just coming in
for a landing, when the sun is at just the right angle,
that try as you might, you could not imagine
a life without me. The passionate spark
that would have flared up in your eye as you said this —
if you had said this —I dream of it often.
I won’t take those back, those dreams, though I would,
if I could, take back your not kissing me, openly,
extravagantly, not caring who saw,
or those looks of anonymous animal longing
you’d throw everyone else in the room. I’d like
to retract my retracting, just before I grabbed you,
my grabbing you on the steps of the New York
Public Library (our failure to visit
which I would also like to recall)
and shouting for all to hear, “You, you
and only you!” Yes, I’d like to take back
my not frightening the pigeons that day with my wild
protestations of uncontrolled love, my not scaring
them off into orbit, frantic and mad,
even as I now sit alone, frantic and mad,
racing to unread the book of our love
before you can finish unwriting it.

from: the December 2008 magazine The Walrus.

     Chapbook, The Solipsist. 2008.
     His second book, At Lake Scugog. 2011.

     Friendship and Agent-Relative Morality. Garland Publishing. 2001.
     Love's Vision. Princeton University Press. 2011.


  1. I love the tone of "though this might perhaps stretch the rules"!

    1. Yes. I agree. The tone of the whole poem is unexpected.

  2. Exciting to meet people you admire. I've not heard of Jeanne E. Clark or Troy Jollimore before. I like the contemporary nature of this poem.

    1. Although I have a great admiration for classic poetry, I love "poetry on the hoof" so to speak.