Jorie Graham, A Tribute to Daniel Halpern



it's really thrilling to to have this evening to thank then to described in all of us who I've known Dan for almost 40 years and most of us as we talked amongst ourselves about what we could do this evening agreed that we just pretty much can't tell anything about anything that happened it's just really kind of a peculiar relationship to have with the person that you love deeply and I've known Dan as an editor is a publisher as an extraordinarily close friend he's the god father of my daughter and he's the father of Lily dan knows more about love and its attendant suffering and then pretty much anyone I know and being the recipient of his love I said it's really an astonishing experience it's not always evident you can send them a manuscript of poems and wait for him to respond you can write email saying I know we're going to press but have you read it you know I know we're going to press but do you like it is it any good and you're not going to get a response about that he might communicate about the cover he loves to communicate about the cover that's not quite true he has a very subtle way of intervening do you really need that first poem and he loves to argue about the author photo um he's obsessed about the author photo there's never one that's good enough it's worse than having a mother but I remember when Lily was born and watching him his love for Lily and watching him father lily and has been one of the really great strengthening experiences of my life I also raised the Daughter it's not an easy thing and in fact a few times when my daughter was in kind of state that I couldn't handle I sent her to Uncle Dan and quite remarkable he would usually meet her inappropriately in a bar or someplace to talk to her but he M he has a way of appearing not to judge you at all and being able to see beneath the surface what's actually there and as a result really understanding the nature of love I went back and looked at one of the most extraordinary volumes that you can read the 10th anniversary issue of Antaeus in an amazing book and reread the essay that Dan wrote in there about love poetry and the history of love poetry a rather remarkable piece of critical work in addition to all those other gifts and that this quote from there that i picked up the mandate for poets is always to find the new idiom to articulate what is most private and specific and to communicate it without making the poetry exclusive or tedious with the reliance on the literal part of this new idiom ought always to be able to address itself to the connection between love and respect we're going to read them some poems it makes me extremely happy to be able to read dance poems to him because sometimes I think he doesn't know how extraordinary they are and how much and to be able to try to give them back to him is what I'm going to do for the rest of my time here this is a poem titled her body and i'm reading the final section of it the first sections are the fingers the eyes the toes the signature unless he has another child i presume it's about lily so please forgive me Lily if you find it embarrassing who knows how Rose your cell phone hence she's your author dude who knows how they get here beyond the obvious who packaged the code that provided the slate for her eyes and what about the workmanship that went into the fingers allowing such intricate movement just months from the other side who placed with such exactness the minut nails on each of the ten unpainted toes and what remains beyond eye and ear the thing most deeply rooted in her body the thing that endlessly blossoms but doesn't age in time shows greater vitality the thing unlike the body that so quickly reaches its highest moment only to begin with little hesitation the long rollback slowing all the way until movement is administered by devices other than those devised by divine design the ageless thing without a name like air both resident and owner of the body's estate but this thing only partially unpackaged sings through the slate that guards it Tom contacts those of us waiting here with a splay of its soft scrutinizing fingers her spirit is a sapling thing something green still damp but resolute entering this world with an Angels thumb pressed to her unformed body at the very last a template affixed to her body when they decided it was time to let her go for her to come to us and their good work was done an Angels thumbprint a signature obviously lily has two parents but only one of them is writing poems about him tattoo did you see a cockatoo I asked a white bird with colored head and tail Lily too she says her finger singling out a particular infinity above I pin the decal to her forearm with a little water and a damp cloth cuca tattoo she says and smiles below pun but above the literal lily to she demands which means only there's another location she can imagine requires a little water dampness of the rag and Raymond of cockatoo the white bird sits on her arm a solitary bird more colorful for its pale backdrop and beneath its perch in the unclouded whether the vessel River blood threads the estuaries of a body in bud a body in the dim hours of morning about to call for cockatoo she awakens in the shadow of her fingers waving in the pre-dawn subliminal mind a body open pliable longing in trope for more tattoo where's Lily's white bird I asked lilies white bird tattoo lilies cockatoo goodbye daddy she adds in so early the hour by which she means The Times come for me to find new postage replacement for that paling bird washed and worn into infinity by childish devotion to what's here now a bird of restrained flight

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