The Poetry God is dead. That's how the others, who'd known him longer, referred to Mark - as The Poetry God. That appellation was, I'm sure, partly teasing, partly self assigned (as he was often the only male participant at meetings), partly in honor of his amazing capacity to create art as poetry.
I didn't know him well, had only encountered Mark at workshops, meetings and readings since I joined the writer's group. No one seems to know the what, or how, or why of his death - only that he died in his forties, that he'd battled depression, that he'd struggled with physical health problems, that he'd been isolating, and he'd turned down an invitation to teach at a recent workshop. None of that may have to do with his death. But it's part of Mark's story, of his being here.
Though I didn't know him well, my impression was that Mark was quirky, earthy, sensitive, shy, incredibly talented as a writer, amazingly knowledgeable and well read, an excellent teacher and a willing editor when someone asked for help. He once deconstructed one of my poems, seeing images I didn't know were there, praising my use of metaphor, the images I'd chosen - helping me understand my work in ways I hadn't before. I know I'm not the only one Mark assisted in this way, and that each one must surely have felt the gratitude I did for The Poetry God's help.
John O'Donohue, the Irish poet and Catholic scholar, wrote that we must, "Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of [y]our own presence." These are words I struggle with for myself - since I don't want to be in the mystery of being here - I wish instead to know why I'm here. I struggle too with accepting my immense presence - with understanding myself as the gift others see me to be.
Yet today, in thinking about Mark, in recalling the gift of himself he offered to me, the gift he gave to others by being here and being himself, I feel a shift in the struggle, a realignment toward awakening, a move to acceptance. I'm reminded that, not only don't I have to know why I'm here, I cannot know it. I am here, as Mark was here, in the immensity of his presence. What matters is the waking up, the entering into, the risking while we're here.
The Poetry God is dead. Long live The Poetry God.