Over the last few weeks, we at T&W have lost two poets near and dear to us. We mourn their passing and send condolences to their families, friends, and readers.
Gary Lenhart, 73, was Associate Director of T&W in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s. He was the person who wrote the grants that kept T&W going and created the reports that enticed funders to give more money. He was excellent at this job because he was thoughtful about our work and observant of its salient details. He was a poet, and he found ways not only to describe convincingly what T&W does (or wanted to do), but also to make that work come alive and to capture the creative impulses of the artists who teach and of their students. He edited two T&W books: The T&W Guide to William Carlos Williams and (with Christopher Edgar) The T&W Guide to Classic American Literature. His T&W colleagues and his friends relied on him for his depth of literary knowledge and appreciation, for his far-reaching historical perspectives, for his sly wit, for his reliable judgment when facing sticky problems, and for his enthusiasm for baseball, especially the team in Cleveland now searching for a new name.
A favorite story: T&W does many things, and one funder said, frustratedly, to Gary one day, “Can you give me just ONE sentence to describe what you do?” T&W never sent the sentence to the funder, but we took great delight in what Gary came up with: “T&W teaches the je ne sais quoi of writing.”
Gary published six collections of his poetry and wrote critical reviews, some of which were collected in Another Look: Selected Prose. He also wrote The Stamp of Class: Reflections on Poetry & Social Class, a critical analysis of the ways class affects a poet’s life and work.
Gary left T&W when he moved with his family to VT. His wife Louise Hamlin is a painter and (now retired) art professor at Dartmouth. Until retiring recently, Gary taught writing at Dartmouth. They raised their daughter Katie in VT, where she now lives with her husband Justin. Gary was battling cancer when he died of complications.
The following poem by Gary (from The World in a Minute, Hanging Loose Press, 2010) was no doubt written for Louise and Katie, but everyone who knew Gary shares these sentiments:
FOOTPRINT ON YOUR HEART
Someone will walk into your life,
Leave a footprint on your heart,
Turn it into a mudroom cluttered
With encrusted boots, children’s mittens,
Where you linger to unwrap
Or ready yourself for rough exits
Into howling gales or onto
Frozen car seats, expulsions
Into the great outdoors where touch
Is muffled, noses glisten,
And breaths stab,
So that when you meet someone
Who is leaving your life
You will be able to wave stiff
Icy mitts and look forward
To an evening in spring
When you can fold winter away
Until your next encounter with
A chill so numbing you strew
The heart’s antechamber
With layers of rural garble.
Robert (Bob) Hershon, 84, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, could be described as the Poet Laureate of New York City. In nearly a score of poetry collections with titles such as How to Ride on the Woodlawn Express and Atlantic Avenue, he ferreted out the strangeness, joy, and eccentric humor of our town. As Muriel Rukeyser (one of T&W’s founders) said, “Breathe in experience. Breathe out poetry.”
Bob was a writer-in-the-schools for T&W, and in 2017 he gave (with Sherman Alexie) the Ringel Reading, an annual event T&W co-sponsors in Baltimore. In addition to his insightful, funny, often heart-warming poetry, Bob is known for his important role as a publisher. In 1966, he founded Hanging Loose (with Dick Lourie, Ron Schreiber, and Emmett Jarrett)—a poetry magazine and, eventually, a press that publishes prose and poetry. The magazine and books were edited by Dick, Bob, and Mark Pawlak. Bob’s wife Donna Brook was Associate Editor, with Marie Carter. For 35 years Bob also ran The Print Center in NYC, where anyone could come for help publishing books and other projects.
Donna survives Bob, along with his daughter Elizabeth. His son Jed predeceased him.
In addition to publishing important, undiscovered, as well as sometimes overlooked, writers of our times, Hanging Loose magazine had a section in each issue for writers in high school, and the press published collections of student writing (a critical first step for many poets).
Spending time with Bob was always a delight. He was full of stories, good humor, and insights into poetry politics. Here’s a poem (from Goldfish and Rose, Hanging Loose Press, 2013):
WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE
I like those mixed nuts at Costco and I don’t
mind going so much if the checkout lines are short
and they’re supposed to be very good employers
but Wegman’s is supposed to be even better
but they’re not in the city, they’re in western
New York, which I know from our many trips
to Buffalo in our old Toyota and I don’t know
if I’d get another Toyota after all the recalls but
we won’t be going to Buffalo anymore anyway
because Myra Brook, of the sweet tooth and
contagious giggle, has died at the age of 88 and
now her ashes are buried in our backyard under
the bushes of yellow knockout roses
planted by Galen and her sturdy sons who were
accompanied by Atticus, age five, who rescued
the earthworms and put them in the box
that the ashes came in
And now the honking behind me
says the light has changed