Marianne Burke

1. –I met Harry and Cathy (Catherine Murphy) in 1982 when they came for dinner at the house where Jerry Badanes and I were living for a time on South Cherry Street in Poughkeepsie. It may have been his first year at Vassar. Being a Poughkeepsie native, I liked him immediately when he told me he had also applied for a job at Shop Rite’s deli counter. Thank God Vassar responded first, or else who knows.

2.–I spent my early twenties and thirties in various MFA writing programs, putting off the inevitable question–Now what? When I finally landed in NYC, I worked at The New Yorker under the Gottlieb era, which was fun because it felt like an extension of graduate school –everybody was a writer from the guy in the mail room to the receptionist in the lobby. Joseph Mitchell still came to his office every day even though he hadn’t published anything in the magazine for years. Penelope Gilliate would come to the office drunk in vivid clothes that set off her wild red hair. She added a touch of the British madcap to a place that was already full of eccentrics and old school characters like Eleanor Gould, the in-house grammarian since the 1940s. My first job was in the library, a Dickensian room on the bottom floors of the office, where I wrote summaries of every story, article, poem, review, and cartoon in the issue on 3 x 5 index cards under different subjects and headings for the card catalogue. It was at the magazine that I also received the kind and generous support of the poetry editor Alice Quinn who published six of my poems between 1991 and 1999. I’ve kept writing poetry but I’m awful at sending it out there, not because I’m scared of getting rejected, hell, I’m Catholic, I expect it–but because I’m unambitious, if that’s a word. Why am I recalling my laconic youth here and what does any of this have to do with Harry? My life as a poet of sorts started at Vassar in the good company and friendship of people like the late Jerry Badanes, Eric and Nancy Lindbloom, Paul Russell, Frank and Holly Bergon, Harry, Cathy, all artists of some kind or another. For the last eleven years I have taught high school English in Montclair, NJ, and every summer I get up to Millerton, NY where I stay at a friend’s farmhouse to write in exchange for taking care of her animals and watering the garden. Over the years, Harry, Cathy, Eric and Nancy Lindbloom, Ellen Kozak, Kathleen Cromwell and Elizabeth Macklin have visited me there on Indian Lake Road.

— February, 2008

A Flute Overheard (poem)

La Dolce Vita (poem)

July 1, Morning (poem)