There’s nothing else I want to write about right now, but words elude me, and others have said so much, so beautifully. I’d rather let Michael himself speak here, and direct readers to his words and words of his more eloquent friends.
God, our hearts ache.
We lost Michael Saturday night; he was at the New England Young Writers Conference with his students, doing some of the things he loves best: teaching, mentoring, and modeling what is best in being a writer and person. His obituary appeared today in the Portland Press Herald.
My memories of Michael go back 12 years or so. He was such a big part of why I love the Maine poetry community, and of my ideals of what a generous-hearted poet for all the ages should be. He was a character; I don’t smoke but I’d usually smoke a cigarette with Michael. He made it look so very delicious–his gusto for life was enriching and, in this one instance, corrupting. Bless him. He was a faithful confidante, and reliably wise. He cared deeply and didn’t pretty things up. Once I poured out my guilt about some very uncharitable thoughts I was nurturing towards someone in my life. I said I’d probably come back in the next life as a paramecium. He gave me that level, “seeing to the heart” Michael look, and said in that John Wayne cadence of his: “what….makes ya think….you’ll do….THAT well?”. He could shock one out of self-pity in a way somehow both tender and hilarious. Last summer Michael zoomed up to my house on a motorcycle. He was so full of boyish joy. That visit was an unexpected gift of laughter and memories. He promised to give me a ride on the back of his bike when he gained more confidence. I’m holding out for that ride.
Only a few weeks ago, a poem of Michael’s was featured in Wesley McNair’s
“Take Heart” column.
I had the pleasure of being a co-editor/publisher at Moon Pie Press when we brought out Michael’s first collection, “Driftland”. I’ve always loved the sample poem “Before Coffee” featured there.
You can hear Michael’s resonant, soulful voice reading his poem “Jazz” here; “Two Lanes”, here.
His alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts, posted a tribute Tuesday, along with his poem “Palimpsest”.
There’s so much more to say. I’m just too sad right now to think of more. I’d love for you to share memories of Michael or more links as comments to this post. Most of all, may love and light and comfort surround his wife Donna and son Gabe, and all of his family and hundreds of friends who are feeling this great loss.
I met Michael a few years ago when I was doing a workshop at Alice Person's house. I'd come from Florida to read but in the way you can never imagine a climate different from your own when you're packing, I hadn't brought warm enough clothes. I was sticking it out when Michael noticed I was cold. And he took off his blue work shirt and said, here, put this on. Gratefully, I did. When the workshop broke up be said, take it home, you may need it. I said, I can't take your shirt. It's your SHIRT. He said I have lots of them, just like it. So I took it. To me, that says everything about Michael– that he was someone who would literally give you the shirt off his back.
A few years later I was back in Portland visiting my dear Nancy and Michael came by to take me for a ride in his truck. He showed me so much I'd never have seen without him. That was Michael too, and what he did for his mentees, I'm sure. He took them for a ride and they saw things they'd never have seen without him. So many of us have seen things we wouldn't have seen without Michael. My blue shirt and I miss him deeply.