Nowadays, we tend to think of mentors as elders–some steadier, wiser hand to set one upon the path. But I grew up in the ‘60s, when if you weren’t a peer, you were basically dog chow. “Never trust anyone over thirty,” was the watchword. Silly perhaps, in retrospect, but a genuine feature of the social dynamics of the time.
Allen Hoey, who died one year ago today, was a peer/mentor of mine. Lord knows he was neither steady nor wise at the time (though he grew into both those qualities eventually), but he had a unique ability to get somewhere new just ahead of everyone else–or ahead of me, at least. Over the years we lived together, worked together, wrote together, and stayed way up late together.
The infectiousness of his enthusiasms translated well into a career of teaching, writing and publishing. His maniacal energy level made him a prolific creator, an evangelist for the language he loved, and a generous mentor in the more modern sense to decades of young women and men.
In addition to being the anniversary of Allen’s death, June 16 is Bloomsday, the date in 1904 on which the entirety of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses took place. This was a serious holiday in Allen’s world, celebrated each year with a big brawling party featuring readings from the “Master,” the imbibing of astringent fluids of Celtic origin, the smoking of stogies, and rambling discourse upon life, the universe and everything.
Happy Bloomsday. Here is a poem for Allen I wrote in April:
I’ve been expecting you to come around.
These nights when winter wrestles spring
two falls out of three and comes up short,
I can’t get to sleep for the rushing wind.
We always rode this weather out together
talking late after the bars sent us packing.
Silly crap, vainglorious affectations, paranoid
politics, art jabber, life, love and language.
It’s clear to me now how much you lead,
and I followed, as you pioneered new poets
new music, new thinking, moving on—and I
came along, a little cautious, less whole-hearted.
Which spared me many of your deepest dents:
lost lovers, bitter partings, the mandatory
reinventions of your outlaw inner self. But
now I wonder if I spared myself too much.
This is something we would have talked over—
as we could work our way through any topic.
But you have moved on to a whole new scene
now, and I can ill afford the ferryman’s fare.