Dear Dispatches:

The remark re James as “Miss Liddy” reminded me of an almost identical one made in the French press regarding a public appearance in which Verlaine was noted as being accompanied by a “Miss Rimbaud” (the name misspelled). A long echoing sound of catty remarks can only make one laugh, as James and I spent many of our times together–laughing in the face of conventional “values” as they are paraded in life and the poetry world. I never had a class with James, though I knew many of his students, who loved him and were fired with a passion for the powaeler of poetry, the true Promethean fire, by him.  For myself, the first time we met, James and I exchanged an instant unspoken recognition in a mutual rebelliousness and disdain for conformity–whether in life or poetry.  I still have the copy of Burroughs’ “Queer” which James gave me on that first meeting–a sign of our love for the Beat writers.  James, like others, identified me with the “Dark French” tradition, and called me the “Good French Shepard of the Black Sheep.”  During readings we passed notes back and forth with all manner of oblique, hilarious comments, especially when the atmosphere grew too stuffy, too constipated. Via our mutual great friend, musician Mark Shurilla, I became a regular when James held forth at an Irish Culture bar the Black Shamrock.  Poets, dancers, musicians from both Irelands and from the Irish-American communities in primarily Chicago and Milwaukee gave readings, while from time to time there would be a reading by James, or a recitation, most often from Yeats. I’ll never forget one especially profoundly moving set of Yeats poems delivered by James in a near whisper–an ghostly, mystical presence became present as his voice moved in a loving yet eerie manner through the distinctly articulated syllables.  A stunning performance which brought silence to that usually rowdy ribald gathering. James and I had both made voyages to foreign lands when young–I, at sixteen, to go to Paris, inspired by Rimbaud and the Cinematheque, and James to SF on the trail of Jack Spicer–only to learn when once there that the poet had been dead a few years.  So, James whole heartedly threw his lot in with the living and their poetries.
     I attended with Mark Shurilla the very moving Memorial Services in the big Cathedral of St John’s in Lafayette Square here in Milwaukee–there were the classic colorful Catholic Holy Cards printed up for the occasion and I treasure those as well as the Service with the list of chosen hymns.  I loved James–he was a truly uncompromising, brilliant poet, teacher and human being.  His love of the Beats and SF writers, as well as his love of Irish poetry, song and dance–was exemplary–inspiring. We shared a fierceness towards the bullshit–that was part of the friendship–and sitting side by side with him I felt like we were two ancient crazy poetry spouting warriors of some ancient cult kept alive by subterranean streams–in the tradition of Archilocus, lyric poet and solider–or, perhaps, more like the IRA meeting up with a French Communard–I miss him very much–as–and I can’t emphasize this enough–James was truly great amazing fun and wit of the highest, “top shelf” shall we say!! So a toast to you my Friend–I will keep on guarding the Flock for you
david bc