Page 13 - Litteratteur Redefining World December issue
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Litterateur redefining world                      December 2020


                                      "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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