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Tom Clark: Try to look upon death as a friend (Terence Winch)

No one who knew Tom Clark would ever deny that he was irascible, brilliant, generous, difficult, funny, erudite.  He was also immensely prolific—even in old age, he published his blog, Beyond the Pale, on a daily basis. BTP was a relentless illustrated catalogue—with scores of photos spanning the globe—usually revealing world’s woes and conflicts, often complemented with various texts he admired. He also wrote and published dozens of books of poetry and prose. His illustrious literary career is outlined here.

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I felt really shaken by the news of his death yesterday: he was hit by a car near his house in Berkeley and died several hours later in the hospital.

We had met in person only once, back in April of 1978, when he came to DC to read in Doug Lang’s Folio Bookstore reading series. I have a distinct memory of taking him somewhere on the DC Metro.

We got to know each much better in recent years, mostly through emails. He liked my work and posted poems of mine from time to time in Beyond the Pale.  We had many exchanges about poetry, music, our shared Irish heritage, etc.  I am haunted today by his occasional references to the perilous streets of his neighborhood, where pedestrians had to risk their lives to take a walk. Indeed, he had been injured in an earlier accident some years ago. 

Here is what he wrote me in June on this very subject:

“Admire your getaroundability. Could never ride on any airplanes nevermore no!! Cannot lift right leg off ground. Get on bus impossible. Cross street a prayer every time, plus plenty straight out hate speech outa me, unheard by robo drivers on software cruise control. They never talk back. I set up in shooter stance w metal cane pointed like assault weapon, they smile and laugh and roar past w/o stopping @alleged pedestrian crosswalk!

Little known fact you probably won't believe or care why should you, but the stop lights here are "smart" - that is, have sensors to detect approaching vehicle, stay green for same, but green goes to yellow in 2 seconds (literally), if you're a ped, and if there is a more unliveable country on earth, defining living as having a soul, I want to go there, just to comparison shop - but I've never owned a credit card or a cell phone, have no i.d. and indeed no idea how to shop, so there might be a problem there, but no worries.”                    email from Tom Clark, June 2018


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Tom will be missed and mourned by his many friends and colleagues. My deepest condolences to Angelica Clark, his wife of 50 years.

Here are two recent poems of Tom’s that I especially like:

Nocturnal Resolutions

Be opaque

Have no memory

Make no attempt to be understood

Stop suffering fools

Be kind to animals no matter what

Listen to the angel

Try to look upon death as a friend

Accept pain as the condition

Be more patient

Don’t turn on the light


The Edge of the Forest

Poems ought to have memories.

They should remember other poems.

At this moment the noisy city

has fallen quiet, and the edge

of the forest is abuzz with voices,

the voices of poems beneath the old trees

talking quietly about the poems that were

once here but are not here any longer,

remembering each other.


both poems from Truth Game (BlazeVOX, 2013)


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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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