Yesterday on Facebook I wished a Michael Peich a happy birthday. He is the cofounder (along with Dana Gioia) of the West Chester University Poetry Conference, as well as founder of Aralia Press– I wrote about the conference, and Mike, fourteen years ago in the pages of Philadelphia Magazine here. Frank Wilson over at Books Inq. says he is “pretty sure” that it’s still the largest annual poetry conference in the U.S. I have no reason to doubt his word. But I have no firsthand way to observe it, either. I attended several in the early years – but soon the June dates coincided with the high school and then college graduations of kids and stepkids, so I lost the habit of making the East Coast trek. Frank has an advantage – he lives in Philadelphia. So I’m stealing these poems on Books Inq. as a kind of revenge.
Several of the West Chester poets sent poetic greetings to Mike on his 70th, and three of them have been in these pages already: Dana, of course, but also David Mason and A.M. Juster (in fact, West Chester probably where I got that short volume of his Petrarch translations, which I discussed on Petrarch’s birthday here). Joshua Wren, by the way, is the founder of the brand new Wiseblood Books.
Frank intends to run more commemorative poems later – so check out his blog over here. It’s a good habit to get into, if you don’t scan Books, Inq. regularly already. Meanwhile, evidence of my theft:
May 18, 2014
Gnarliest of trees, this apple now
Sports withered fruit along its bough,
Drooping sideways, sere and gaunt—
Hardly the symbol that you want.
Now of your threescore years and ten,
Seventy will not come again,
And take from seventy springs that sum . . .
Well, on this subject, let’s play dumb.
But since you’re now on borrowed time,
you’re spending someone else’s dime,
So hang around the bars and gab,
And let your heirs pick up the tab.
. – Dana Gioia
Gnarly? Withered? Drooping? Sere?
No, No, my dear!
Let no such imagery from Gioia
Even begin to annoy ya!
Trust, instead, to Rhina,
Whose eyesight’s keener,
Though it’s an old codger’s:
She says you’re gorgeous!
. – Rhina Espaillat
Doesn’t much like
A bad Cabernet or weak Pinot —
And he’s not afraid to tell you so.
. – David Rothman
Had not Mike helped design our book
the thing wouldn’t have garnered a second look
But there is no “had not,” you see
and – what’s more – he offered advice for free
Now that I know he’s on borrowed time,
spending someone else’s dime,
I wish he’d spend mine!
So Pinot, Cabernet, you name the type
I’ll send it with thanks near o’er ripe
Seventy times seven bottles to give
Hoping seventy times seven eternities you’ll live
. – Joshua Wren
Mike Peich still has his fastball at his age
and throws that inside heat like Satchel Paige.
Our formal phenom is still on his game;
the Phillies’ closer cannot say the same.
. – A. M. Juster
Took a vast hike
Down to the wine cellar.
He is quite the feller.
What’s not to like?
You tellin’ me
The bastard’s seventy?
Dianne’s old man
Made a big plan.
So what’s so baffling
About God’s laughling?
Old man Peich
Made a lucky strike.
I know it by dint
Of I seen it in print.
. – David Mason