Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bill Shively, poet

Bill could write. He was a craftsman. He knew how to make things, and make things happen.  How do you know how to do these things? I asked him.  I get a book and follow the instructions, he said.

Bill could write and was prolific and promiscuous at it---he just wrote ‘em and sent ‘em out, wrote ‘em and sent ‘em out.  I’ve a collection of chapbooks and manuscripts, and a ton of letters, and pages and pages of (I think) unpublished poems, as well as poems that eventually found a print home somewhere.  He was disciplined as an artist, a writer who took the craft seriously, but somewhat undisciplined when it came to compilation.  A couple of times he requested his correspondents look for a certain poem he might have sent them last year or last week or something.  I chided him for that; his work was too good not to keep track of.  He kept it up.

Bill and I met at Red Sky Poetry Theater in Seattle in the mid 1980’s.  We collaborated on a few projects, and when the Bill Shively Band was formed, he extended a couple of invitations for me to “sit in” with them.  There was also a short-lived, 4-man collective that put out a couple of issues of a renegade literary magazine titled “Seattle:  No Ice.”  I had no business being in that company--- Bill, Joe Keppler, Ralph LaCharity, and me (a mere man among giants).  But it was thrilling.

We went our separate geographic ways, but over the past score of years Bill and I kept in contact, and visited on a handful of occasions, the best of the visits enhanced by the presence of his beautiful wife Anna.    

Over this past summer, while he was getting sicker and I was recovering from a different kind of physical issue, Bill and I managed to collaborate one last time with the upshot being the publication of his book s/he said.  Serendipitously, Michael Monhart, Bill’s close friend since the days of the Bill Shively Band, also helped with the book, and he brought it to our attention that here we were, working together again, after all these years.  

Good is an adjective easily attached to Bill Shively and his roles as friend, teacher, writer.  He was, to borrow a term from younger generations, authentic.  As of the night of September 28, 2014, our planet is down a good human being. 

1 comment:

  1. Sad to hear the news yesterday in an email from Anna. Bill, Don Wilsun, and I first met in the early eighties Red Sky days in Seattle. I mourned Don's passing and now Bill's. Bill was teaching in the Astoria school district the last few years and as I moved here myself, we renewed our friendship so I had the pleasure of seeing him often, and the shock of watching his decline. I now host a monthly reading series here on Last Thursday. This month (Oct. 30) I'll be reading Shively poems. If you are within reach and would like to join in, it's at 9th and Commercial at seven o'clock.