I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

03 May 2006

On Dan Bourne

First, the standard bio information on Daniel Bourne: author of Where No One Spoke the Language (Custom Words), The Household Gods (Cleveland State) and On the Crossroads of Asia and Europe (Salmon Run), a collection of translations of Polish poety and essayist Tomasz Jastrun. He teaches at The College of Wooster in Ohio, where he edits Artful Dodge.

I was in the M.F.A. program with Dan at Indiana University, and I worked for about a year on Artful Dodge under Dan's guidance. Already AD had already established itself for its very important interviews (Borges, Merwin, and others) and for its outstanding translations of mostly Eastern European writers, this at the time of the crackdown against the workers in Gdansk and the Solidarity movement. A favorite memory is being with Dan, Don Boes, Karen Kovacik, and glueing on the four-color cover art to the covers of the individual magazines, getting a little high from the fumes, and drinking bourbon and Rolling Rock, and worrying, worrying about Reagan and the vanishing safety net, and goofing on remembering plot-lines in old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Anyway, Dan represented all that was right about the midwest: strong work ethic, grounded political values, and a deep continental voice. He also proved a valuable friend and mentor.

What I appreciate most about his poetry is its strong political and moral perspective--his poetry is made of iron--while it maintains a personal orbit. A selection of his poetry can be found at the Custom Words web site. His poem "Recycling" typifies how Bourne's speakers often stand on two different lands: here, it is Illinois and Poland, somewhere between the living and the dead, the personal and the political, the reverent and the comic, the father and the son. His poems are anchors.


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