Two Poets for the Price of One: Free

Back in 1993, I was in a graduate poetry workshop, and there was this writer, Brian Turner, who brought in good poem after good poem. He went off to the University of Oregon and I headed to the University of Washington. Now, so many years later, we both have books and we're going to be doing a reading together.


I just returned to CSUF after many years of slogging on less important things out in the world. Finally, I got my shit together and am back on track. I'm in the MFA programme, but still not writing as much as I'd like. That (I tell myself, and I hope I'm not lying)will change after school gets out in May and I rearrange my priorities even more.

Last semester, sitting in my first poetry workshop in more than ten years, I learned from Connie that Andres Montoya was dead and that Danny Chacon was writing and teaching somewhere else in the country. I cast my mind back to Peter Everwine's class, to a time when I didn't even know what poetry was (not really) and I wondered about you. Now I don't have to ask what you're doing.

I have a kid in one of my English 1LA classes who reads through his workshop papers at a pace that I have only heard once before. He is quiet, unassuming, doesn't want people to look at him. Any of this sound familiar? Last week, I told the class about the writers who have emerged from the valley and have prevailed against hardship through their writing. I think he was listening.

Enough. Congratulations on your huge achievement. I am ordering Bent to the Earth today.

Maggie Webley (English/former CSUF classmate)

English 41, Spring 1990


I’m so glad to hear from you; I thought that we’d lost track of each other, the way that people do: sadly and permanently. When I look back at my time in the workshops (which I probably do more than is healthy [because those were some great, great years and most things have paled in comparison]), I always remember your lovely poems and the smart things that you said about everybody else's poems. I can still partially recall that line of yours about the hissing porcelain of a stove. Does that sound at all familiar? That was way back in 1990, in Peter’s class. Wasn’t Peter’s class great? Andrés, Daniel, the two of us. It’s sad about Andrés, and unimaginable that he’s gone (when he was so articulate and impassioned, so humane and full of possibility), and that he only got to write one great book when it was clear that he would have written so many. I would say that it’s unfair, but everything is, and cruel.

I’m happy that you're still writing, because you had it then—the intelligence, the talent, the drive, the ear and the imagination—and I’m sure that you have it now.

Still quiet, still unassuming, still reading way too quickly (but getting slightly better, and it’s only taken me fifteen years to do that).

I’ll see you at Brian’s and my reading. Please tell me that you’ll be there. Get my e-mail from Connie so that we can send messages back and forth.

Maggie, I’m so damn happy to know that you're still around.