Niagara Gazette — Bob Baxter sent me his new book of poems the other day and I promised to read them. But, when I tried to open the book, I couldn’t. I’ve always been prejudiced against poetry.
He knew of my dislike, but as a retired creative writing professor, had hoped the poems from “Niagara Lost and Found” might soften me toward one of his favorite art forms.
Sadly, my disdain was set in place long ago, in reaction to teachers who could not help me understand. It wasn’t just poems, it was classic literature. Reverence for the world’s most important words eluded me. Shakespeare was a punishment. That tale about two cities was just more unendurable homework.
Yet, I somehow became a writer, kind of like Bob Baxter, except my work is done while a clock counts down, while his work is crafted as if he were the maker of a fine tapestry, each thread deliberately placed and torn out unless it lays just so.
While he’s doing that, I can barely find the time to get two words together that sort of match, like a black sock and a grey one, between answering phones, and responding with as much presence as I can muster to callers and visitors and colleagues and students. Not to mention the pile of books on my desk other writers clamor for me to read, a pile that grows like a beanstalk, fertilized by the boom in self publishing. Many sadly unedited.
Baxter’s book was different. It had been produced by a real publisher who paid for the right to do so in an uncertain economy.
I did not want to ignore Bob’s poems. And not just because he’s a writer who has been called Niagara’s own Walt Whitman.