In 1994 or 1995, I went through a break-up which led to a search for new employment and new housing. In other words, things went bad quick.
I slept on a friend’s floor for a couple of days, and then I took the couch at my brother’s place. As I got my bearings and confidence, I put the feelers out to everybody and anybody that knew of housing and/or employment.
Finally, one day a girl I worked with in the 1980s at a record shop called and said that her boyfriend was managing a Kinko’s and they needed somebody to run the computer department during the midnight shift. Perfect! As it was, I couldn’t sleep anyway. Break-up, money, one-year-old daughter, on and on, the brain never turned off.
One morning I’m sitting behind the counter at the computer department working on a press release for Michael Jackson’s parents Katherine and Joe Jackson when a very dignified African-American walks up. He asks if he could have a cord to plug his laptop in to the printer. I give it to him. He shoots off a couple of pages. Comes back, pays for the prints and hands me the cord.
This went on for a few months, cord, prints, pays, and leaves. One day, curiosity gets the best of me, I walk over and ask what he’s working on. He tells me he’s a poet and he’s putting together some pieces about his time in Vietnam.
I told him that I had been writing poetry since the early 1980s, then asked if he could look it over sometime. He agreed.
My new poet friend came in a week later. He walked up to me and handed me a book he made of 5 or 6 of his poems. Each one a disparate style, modern, traditional and a sonnet.
I went over and took out a notebook I had of my writings, similar to what I write now, but a bit too heavy on the metaphors. He looked everything over and made comments, like, “This one reads like a song,” and “This is good, but take out the “I,” tell the story without it being in the first person.” Really cool perspectives. Then he said to go to the local bookshop, find the poetry section and buy the first author I recognized. The point was to find my own voice. Don’t write poetry like I think it should be, don’t imitate Shakespeare.
I wandered over to Barnes & Noble. I looked and looked; finally, I see a book by Jim Morrison called The Lords and The New Creatures: Poems. I bought it, read it and moments later declared it as the worst piece of shit I ever read.
I rewrote most of my poetry based on my friend’s suggestions. When he popped up a day or so later, I showed him my updated work and told him that Jim Morrison’s poetry was horrendous.
He read through my latest poetry, offered a few more pointers, and then he asked, “Have you read much Bukowski?” I said, “Not really. I saw Barfly in 1987.”
He nodded, and said, “OK, there’s a book you have to buy. I’d give you my copy, but I probably gave it away already. When you get off work, go to the store and buy Bukowski’s Love Is A Dog From Hell. That should point you in the right direction.”
That man was author Clyde Wray; he has always been an inspiration and a friend.