Page 17 - Jack Foley | The true litterateur
P. 17


                                      "Kid, I didn't think you'd be able to go."

               My father was surprised and delighted when I won scholarship money to go to
               college.  One  of  the  scholarships,  the  major  one,  came  from  Western  Union.
               Western Union provided three prizes for children of its employees: first prize
               was  a  full  scholarship  to  Cornell  University  in  Ithaca,  NY.  The  other  two
               scholarships were less money, but you could go to any school you wished. I
               won first prize. "Kid, I didn't think you'd be able to go," my father told me, "I

               didn't have the money." With a probably misplaced zeal I simply assumed I was
               going  to  college  and  that  the  money  would  somehow  take  care  of  itself.
               Amazingly, it did.

                                                                   Jack in the three-room apartment in Port Chester.
                                                                   Behind  is an ancient Web Cor tape recorder. Jack
                                                                    is  reading Noel Coward’s autobiography. Photo
                                                                       ca. 1956, probably taken by my mother.

               I had come to Port Chester in 1943. When I left in 1958 I understood myself to be
               a poet. My essay, "Home/Words," in Exiles (1996) deals with the moment in 1955
               at  which  I  discovered  poetry.  "Someone -probably  a  teacher,  perhaps  Angela
               Kelley, who was Italian but who had married an Irishman -suggested that I read
               Thomas  Gray's  18th-Century  poem,  'Elegy  Written  in  a  Country  Churchyard.'  I
               had no idea why the teacher thought the poem would appeal to me. I thought it
               very unlikely that I would have much interest in it, but I looked it up in the library
               and took it home...The poem seemed to me the most beautiful sound I had ever
               heard.  [It] affected me so deeply that I wanted it to have come out of me, not out
               of Thomas Gray, and I immediately sat down and wrote my own Gray's 'Elegy,' in
               the same stanzaic form and with the same rhyme scheme as the original.

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