Distressing news just out of Berkeley, Tom Clark, struck down and killed by a car on a particularly dangerous intersection.
“The coroner’s office said Clark’s official time of death at Highland Hospital was listed as 12:56 a.m. Saturday.”
His extraordinary and unique “blog” Beyond The Pale, the singular devotion of these last nine years, filed its final post, Friday. One assumes there would have been a Saturday epistle (Clark was a phenomenon, writing well into the night), now there won’t be one.
That amalgam of rigorously selected photography and poetry – and prose, (an awesome unflinching engagement with contemporary social horrors and beauty), huge, though it is, is just one small part of his legacy.
As the Poetry Foundation remarked in their note on him, “Tom Clark.. combined the diverse roles of poet, biographer, novelist, dramatist, reviewer, and sportswriter” during his extensive writing career. His achievement in each of those fields was considerable.
His engagement with the Beats and with Allen came early. From 1963 to 1973 he was the highly-infuential and highly-perspicacious poetry editor for the Paris Review. It was he who conducted the deep comprehensive interview that appeared in 1966 in that journal. A decade or so later, he crossed swords with Allen over the behavior of what he saw as the manipulations of his guru and teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche – (the events that took place regarding the so-called “Merwin incident” – see his book, The Great Naropa Poetry Wars) – Ever acerbic, ever mordant, too wary to trust or follow any leaders, for all his admiration for the poetry, he wasn’t about to cut Allen any slack, let him (as he saw it) “get off the hook”.
We’ll mention here also his writer-for-hire, swift, highly-readable, biography of Jack Kerouac (one of a number of such prose commissions, professionally executed)
All this masking, perhaps, his achievement with his own poetry. He was himself, a singularly adept, seemingly effortless, absolutely exemplary, lyric poet, author of numerous volumes (too many to mention here)
Light and Shade (2006) from Coffee House Press presents a comprehensive selection (up to that date! – but, once again, it’s only skimming the surface)
We’re still stunned and shocked.
More on Tom Clark to follow.
Our thoughts go out to his beloved, Angelica.