Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. Stegner
Timothy Egan notes in the NY Times that yesterday was Wallace Stegner’s 100th birthday. I must confess that I learned more about Stegner in that column than I did in the two years I held a fellowship he helped found and which carried his name, so let me make up for it by thanking his memory here.
I owe a tremendous debt to Wallace Stegner and his fellowship. Without it, I’d probably never have lived in San Francisco, and it’s doubtful I’d have the job I currently hold. I never would have met the people I met out there, which means my life would be much less rich than it is. And I’m not just talking about the writers–I’d probably never have worked at Anchor Brewing, met Fritz Maytag and Chris Solomon, and all the rest. I’d never have discovered the beauty in Old Potrero rye whiskey, or seen the sun come up over the Bay, walked the Golden Gate Bridge in both sun and fog, seen Barry Bonds hit his 700th home run, watched antique smut at the Red Vic theater in the Haight. I’d never have played in a real band, even if I was only the backup rhythm guitarist.
But then there were the writers–teachers like W. S. DiPiero and Ken Fields and Eavan Boland. I met Thom Gunn not long before he died, and saw why people like to see Billy Collins read, even if they aren’t wild about his poetry. And my peers–poets with whom I’m still in contact both personally and through their work, people I respect and admire and care for on a personal level.
I’d never have been on C-SPAN’s BookTV, and by extension, wouldn’t now be poetry editor of The Rumpus, since Stephen Elliott is responsible for both those things, and I met him through the Stegner Fellowship.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I owe a huge chunk of my present life to Wallace Stegner, and I’ve been remiss in not reading his work. I’m going to rectify that, starting today. Happy Birthday, Mr. Stegner.
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