Thursday, May 13, 2010

Andrew MacArthur, 1955-2010

What I wanted to say is that Andrew died. His suffering ended and now the poetry will change without him.

I have been reading about his illness and its impact on his friend, noko, in her online diary. Andrew cared for her, called her his best friend, appreciated her constant attention to his needs, her consistent accommodation to his requirements. Noko wrote of her experience of Andrew's illness, her suffering over his long exit, knowing it would be spring, and so it is, and now she is very alone with few friends and no children; so much of her life tied up with his.

Andrew didn't want to write about his illness, instead he focused entirely on his poetry and email correspondence with a suddenly ardent old flame, trusting noko to get the narrative right. And over the months of reading her online diary I've come to feel a kinship with her for loving someone so complicated; her years of devotion, her romantic love unrequited, but always valued and trusted by Andrew anyway. And I can relate. Finding myself identifying with her grief, I can't help anticipating inevitable losses of my own, a memento mori in kind.

When I started reading poems in Portland's open mic scene, Andrew was an encouraging presence who was steadfast in his generosity to less experienced poets. Though he largely quit attending the open mics a few years ago, he continued to write, of course, and maintained connections and friendships with several others who were still active in the scene.

I've looked through my endless files of photos of Portland poets and haven't come on a single shot of Andrew. I have portrait after portrait of poets whose tenure on the scene was so brief that I can barely recall their names, but not a single photo of the tall, soft-spoken gentleman in dark colors, smoking in the back.

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