Portraits and Landscapes

My great friend Sandy Taylor, who started Curbstone Press with Judith Ayer Doyle, and who died a few years ago, was a tremendous mentor and friend, and his poetry is like the ledge of a steep mountain that I have always aspired to climb to, but have still not made it.

When asked by Jessica Powers in her article Justice, Love, Death and Literature, published in the summer of 2006, why he started Curbstone Press, Sandy said:

“It was a way to contribute to the awareness of poetry. I think we began with poetry because that was the tough road. With the magazines, we tried to pair up new poets with established poets to present them in a context that was warm. We’d publish new poets with e.e. cummings, for example. We published a lot of people who later became famous, such as Bukowski.

But Judy and I were both involved in human rights organizations and solidarity movements and anti-racist movements. Much of the works we published actually grew out of our contacts with the people in these movements. For example, I met Claribel Alegría on a bus in Managua because I was down there in support of the Sandinista regime and reading poetry to the police, army, and coffee workers.”


Sandy’s poetry always hit a nerve whether it was personal or political. The url link below is a link to a podocast, so you can hear him reading his own poetry, and get more of a flavor of who this extraordinary human being was. http://minicasts.podomatic.com/play/4887985/7021997#.U1FTIevu01I.email



At the news of the President’s death,

I did not recall, like the others

his optimism, his jokes, but

flashed once again on the ruins

of the health center in Matagalpa,

remembered walking over the charred ground,

the air heavy with the smell of ashes,

and recalled the funeral of the Argentinian doctor

and the Dutch nurse, who were pulled from the bus

by Reagan’s contras and shot there in the road

without an ounce of mercy, and the somber funeral,

Ernesto’s sad face under his beret

and Sergio’s tall form like a dignified statue,

and the young president, Daniel, expressing his grief

for the slaughter of these innocents—that

was a funeral I will never forget –

I can still feel its scar on my aging heart.


So although I know it’s not

polite to say so, there’s no grief

in my heart for this dead killer.

what grieves me is how little we care

for the thin children playing

in the dusty streets of Estali

of Managua, not such a wonderful spot

after all under the heel

of the Colossus of the North


Who I really miss

Is Ray Charles, who though blind

Could rock and sign and see,


Who traveled to his many places in the world

With messages of peace and joy

Like a bright warming flame

And who never killed anyone at all.




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