Last spring I met two relatives at a book signing. One a Durkee, and one from the Crandell lineage, both writers.
Thor Bacon is a shy poet who agreed to be interviewed. We took photos together, me holding his book, he holding mine. And then we parted, promising to keep in touch. There’s so much about Thor that reminds me of my uncles and my cousins, and perhaps myself. He touched my heart with his wit and his wisdom. In the promises of a New Year, I hope he does the same for you.
Thor lives in Flint, Michigan now. Before that, he drove by the original Crandell homestead nearly every day. I’ve never been there. Maybe someday…
How old are you? In the famous Sufi story a group of students accompanies their teacher to a cemetery: passing the gravestones he remarks, “This one was two years old; that one, a year and a half.” Back at the tea-room they ask what he had meant, and he says that while the bodies may have reached such-and-such age, the nafs (ego) of those people did not get past the age of toddlerhood. That puts me somewhere between two and three I suppose.
Where can readers purchase your poetry?Amazon.com, Birchbark Books, Fenton Open Book, Totem Books, Boneshaker Books.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process I guess you’ve seen a red-breasted robin hunt? Is he listening? Watching? What hunger sharpened his senses?
Tell me what attracts you to the Ramages. Since my teens I admired the haiku, which has less to do with syllable-count than cultivated awareness. Encountering the ramage in my thirties I found it hummed near the haiku in brevity, suggestiveness, and care-full attention to the space where the inner and outer worlds meet. In my experience this zone is not clearly demarcated but fluid and shifting – like a shoreline.
Why poetry? In the digital tyranny of our age, poetry remains one of the last habitats for mystery.
How did you get started? Before I could even read I would copy the shapes of the English letters in my childhood books. The angles, you know. The spacing and relationships. Spelling. The words looked like spells. As poets and writers we would do well to consider what incantations we are really making.
What’s your biggest challenge? One of my greatest challenges is finding courage to redress the tyrants, both the inner and the outer.
Why should we read your poetry? Your time will be more wisely spent reading the Torah, the Gospels, the Quran. My poems only offer an example of what not to do with one’s life. If you insist then let it be out of respect to those writers whose lines had more right than my own to be published. How many voices did we lose at Babi Yar, Kharput, Gallipoli? Where are the songs of the Picts and Gaels? What of the truck driver’s lament, crying each time she tops the Bozeman pass? Or that of the single father slowly going blind in a dim sweat shop?
How can someone else do what you do? I don’t recommend it. An inexplicable and unbearable solitude accompanies the craft which proves impossible to endure. I’d have done much better in advertising, where some of the most creative and clever use of English goes on. Or naming lipsticks – I would have loved to be a lipstick-namer.
Tell me about your first day of school. In Neruda’s memoirs he relates that as a boy he put his cherished pine-cone by the hole in his parent’s privacy fence. A hand reached through, took it, and replaced it with a little lamb of felted wool. Did this tactile wonder reappear decades later in the opening lines of “Walking Around”? At any rate my first day school amounted to little more this: a red metal lunchbox, my mum kissing my brow, in the rain.
What were you like in high school? In Minnesota where I grew up stand three mountains: Mt. Dylan, Mt. Prince and Mt. Bly. Nothing struggling to grow escapes their shadows.
What advice do you have for someone who has the same background/childhood/aspirations as you? Really read! Clues await. Why do we say motherboard, not fatherboard? Have we been imprisoned by our cell phones? Why do so many of America’s towns, rivers, counties, streets, even vehicles and teams, bear names taken from the languages of the peoples who once ruled here? (This distinction is certainly not honorific, a fact made readily obvious by checking domestic suicide, unemployment, and poverty rates; or, for the more “hands-on” learner, by taking a drive out to a place like Pine Ridge.) Further, why do we have so few place names of Asian or African origin when so much of the blood, sweat and tears of people from those lands binds the mortar of this nation?
Through reading we may begin to wonder why historians go on chanting about the “Dark” ages without ever mentioning Moorish Spain; we may detect Dante cribbing from Ibn Abbas’ account of the Miraj; we spy Sir Richard Burton skulking around Mecca is his disguise and ask what he was up to.
The point I would here make is that through careful reading we may discern that although languages certainly do change organically, their growth is not so accidental as we have been led to believe, as evidenced, for example, by the official British repression of Welsh, well into the 19th century. Thus we may begin to strive, through our own intentional speech, to be agents for healing our common legacy of oppression, genocide, hatred, and fear – if not for this, then for what other reason are we writing poems?
Don’t you just love Thor’s whimsy and humor. I know I do.
Here’s a little sample of Thor’s poetry he agreed to share.
Madame Kulesov gave me a suit –
her father’s wedding suit –
sewn by hand in Belgium in the forties,
even the stitches around the slit for a rose.
like platinum on its hanger, woven
from November mornings and
the photos in cigar-box attics.
My arms slide home like a whale’s smile,
a long boat eager for the launch,
and I stand taller, a scepter,
a spear just forged and given name.
Some worth that slept
in my skin rises in answer,
the way herring greet the moon
above the Bering Straight.
Dusk lies like a trapped thing,
tangled in wires, cornered and panting.
I regard the creased trousers and sleek coat
draped on my study chair. How shall I describe it?
Near the market in Anduze, France
I saw a plaque naming four men
killed at that spot by Nazi soldiers.
That plaque is the color of my new suit.
There’s something about this poem that warms my heart. It’s whimsical and melancholic. The words hearken nostalgia and hope.