Sunday, November 4, 2012

Diann Blakely's Remembrance of Jimmy Pitts

Thank you for remembering Jimmy Pitts in this special way; and yet, how strange to find your message in my Facebook inbox, which is checked so rarely, since the very last message in my box is from Jimmy. I don't think I can ever bring myself to erase it.

[Note: see "Scar Inventory" below by Jimmy Pitts.]

I "met" Jimmy in the very best manner: standing up in Nashville's independent bookstore, reading and re-reading this intriguing prose poem--with a Confederate flag mysteriously waving in its lines!--of his in Gordon Lish's The Quarterly. Of course, on my next trip to Oxford, I felt compelled to look him up, and as the years passed, we became correspondents and friends. I still have a heartbreaking sheaf of correspondence from him; toward the very end, he wrote of how energetic he felt, how he wanted to put together a new and selected poems and asked for my help, also if I would succeed him as poetry editor of the Oxford American, since he wanted more time to pursue his painting and music. In fact, he wanted to send my husband, Stanley Booth, his new CD for this collaborative column we had planned, for Stanley, who is the harshest of critics, had listened to some samples and expressed admiration for Jimmy's gifts.

I literally fell to my knees when I heard the news.

Neither the poetry editorship nor the collaborative column happened; but while I also would have liked to have had a group of poems--I could have plucked a half-dozen from the OA itself to prevent copyright problems--and written a tribute to him as a poet for the magazine's pages, which seemed appropriate to me, given his longtime service there, as well as Jimmy's highly gratifying trust in my discernment. Nevertheless, the outcome was the same.

So how good to know he won't be forgotten. Perhaps the new editor at OA will allow what I had originally planned; whatever happens, nothing is as important as the mystery of your choosing to have begun your new project linked to The Poetry of Recovery with him. His spirit lives on and always will, for his friends and admirers were countless, and we hold his person and work in our hearts.

Thank you again, Tom.



Diann Blakely
104 Queen's Court
Brunswick GA 31523

Antioch Review, Best American,
Bloomsbury Review, Harvard Review,
Plath Profiles, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace,
Village Voice Media

Academy of American Poets, National Book Critics' Circle, Poetry Society of America

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