jack myersDom Zuccone, creator and host of this web series since April 2014, offers us a sideways glance at Jack Myers to compliment the live web-cast with Naomi Shahib Nye.

So Much More and Less

                         for Jack Myers

Imagine you’re the only guest in an empty motel. As you unpack your sweaters and underwear from the brocaded suitcase that used to be your mother’s, you find half a handful of loose pills have fallen out of the lining, IP 1780, vasodilators for blood pressure or angina. You don’t know whose they were or how they got there. Somehow you have reinjured your left shoulder. It’s freezing and moving fast into mountain shadow. Old enough to fear a heart attack, you’re ambivalent about the symptoms your father ignored. Tonight it’s a literary mystery and you’ve become the victim, the sleuth, maybe the guilty, or perhaps the ghost who can’t seem to tell his story without whimpering. Of course there’s no room service or mints on the pillow. The desk stopped answering calls when you checked in. When you twist for a cup of green tea on the night table, your shoulder turns into an electric jolt. It turns down as you bring the paper cup lower…an old injury come by to visit. The streets are starting to re-freeze the day’s thaw into a gigantic fingerprint; the whorls could hold a boot (yours). The highway out of town glints with ice. This is where you might expect to meet God, but no dice, it’s already the end of Sunday afternoon and guest preacher’s dog is barking dully from the pickup downshifting for lights two towns over. You’re going no further. Tonight you’re going to borrow a borrowed room with a tinny knocking in the wall by the window. Jack Myers appears where three deer had been foraging in the schoolyard no one uses anymore. Then he slips out from behind an Airstream resting on cement blocks moving cautiously as one of the town’s wild turkeys. Then he’s next to you wearing his shapeless moss green cardigan “I generally adjust my game down to the level of my opponents.” A soft collision barely drops in the side pocket, as if both of you are shooting eight-ball at Camelot Bowl & Billiards again. He offers constructive self-criticism like he’s stalling a mark. Jack’s brown eyes survey your life like freshly broken table. “Art is just an empty motel, you’re a guest, or work the nights.” It sounds enough like Jack, but you want his voice to be yours, or find his key on that red oblong holder, with “poem” instead of a room number. Wind tosses back translucent dust toward the swallowing sky. Jack apologizes, “Sorry I pretended to be your father so much. I couldn’t help it.” You can’t decide which disease you’ll die by tonight. The furnace kicks on like a water faucet dripping. You’ll find your place in the book you always read when you travel.

nyeSUNDAY, NOV 29 Naomi Shihab Nye talks about Jack Myers’ The Memory of Water at 7:00 PM on GoToMeeting.com, meeting ID# 361703309.

Poet, songwriter, translator and novelist, Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas. Her poetry reflects her experiences as an Arab-America ” through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit.”

Her more recent books of poems include Transfer (2011),  You and Yours, and the much acclaimed 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Her work is widely published in journals and reviews in America, Europe and the Middle and Far East. She has received numerous prestigious awards including om the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, and four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 2009 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  Additionally, she has traveled to the Middle East and Asia for the United States Information Agency three times, promoting international goodwill through the arts.

Jack Myers

The career of Jack Myers (1941-2009) spanned five decades, during which time he authored/edited nineteen books of and about poetry. His many awards include two NEA Fellowships and the 1985 National Poetry Series selected by Seamus Heaney, who described Myers’ work as “wise in the pretense of just fooling around.” A much-loved teacher, Jack helped hundreds of poets find their voice through the creative writing programs at Vermont College and Southern Methodist University, as well as during residencies from Idaho to Prague. From 1993-95, he served as co-Vice-President for AWP and co-founded, with his wife, Thea Temple, The Writer’s Garret literary center in Dallas; in 2003-04 he was selected to be the Poet Laureate of Texas.

memory-of-waterThe poets special to us, poets that we can turn to again and again, both for provocative thought and solace, gift us with bodies of work—progressions through which we can experience their personal journeys. When Jack Myers died in November 2009, he left us The Memory of Water (New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University) the closing chapter of his journey.  Jack’s long illness kept him from compiling the manuscript in accordance with a new title and concept. In consultation with his widow, Thea Temple, who knows his inclinations and wishes better than anyone, I tried to refine and organize this final book in a way that would please him.

Please him, yes, and honor him. Without fanfare, overlooked between West and East Coast publishing, he produced some of the most valuable poetry of his generation. He showed me just how insignificant the career and ego issues of poetry really are. He showed me that to write seriously is to live seriously, and with an abiding, ever-deepening attention to the past and an increasing sense of responsibility for the future.

It is my hope that this book will offer Jack’s many fans an enactment of the tensions and energies flowing through his last years. I hope, too, that it will welcome many new readers into an appreciation of the whole of his poetry, which is a remarkably consistent and brilliant body of work.

—Mark Cox  (reprinted from http://numerocinqmagazine.com/)

From The Memory of Water

Poems by Jack Myers

Doggies’ Day Out

— Because we are also what we have lost.
…………………from the movie Amores Perros

The door to the world opens
and my dog and I take a walk.
He’s tiny so he has to trot
to keep up, much like me.
With his wolf’s heart he listens,
sniffs, and pisses on each mailbox,
even after his ambition, like mine,
is long out of ammunition.

There’s nothing dangerous here,
I laugh at him. A little old lady groomer
pinned a pretty pink bow on his head
where it floats like a clichéd thought.
He doesn’t understand humiliation
because he and his image of himself
are so solidly in coincidence he sees things
in black and white, literally. He asks
am I welcome here or not?

To him the old man sweeping the sunset
behind the hills comes directly from
the default archetypal forest of his heart
where discretion and attack play leap frog
over bogs of sleep. We are brothers
with the wilderness gone out of us.
The world once beyond the end
of my thumb and his black nose
is now inside us. Everything we’ve lived
is now part of us, and this new forgetting
and confusion is the beginning of giving
it all back, becoming everything, the whole
unspooling ribbon and blur is itself a thing
of beauty. I pin a pink bow on it. It goes
through me in one long continuous shock
of recognition though it’s only a walk around the block.


Dark Matter

I’ve lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip— I’ll need this and that
and I can’t possibly do without that!

But now I’m about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.

There’s no place on earth
where I can’t unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.

No place where I can’t enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering

I’ll need this and I’ll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.


I’d like to leave
an imprint
on the world
lighter than
I’d formerly meant.
Just a scent,
not the thud
of the thing
steaming on a plate.

Instead of “I told you so!”
let my epitaph be
the glance, the edge,
the mist. The delicately
attenuated swirl
of an innuendo
instead of the thunderhead.

The rain that fell
when I was ambitious
seemed conspiringly rushed
in my way. But the same rain
today tastes of here and now
because of where it’s been.

I’d like to be gentle
with small, great things.
They are larger
than what we think
we came here for.
I’d like to be an eye of light
that opens the air
and burns beyond ambition,
like the sun that can’t see us
and is beyond our human reach,
yet is in us trillions of times over.

—Jack Myers