We talk a lot about what it means to be human, here at EAP—and on The Arcadia Project Facebook page, too. And there was much to meditate upon when we heard last week of the death of the poet David Budbill, who has written so much and so eloquently on our animal species’ painful attempts to evolve.
EAP published David’s last book before his death, Park Songs, a half poem/half play, all lyric on the struggles of every day life in America. I loved that manuscript from the moment I read it: so full it was with hopeful compassion, and painful hope.
David Budbill was a poet who celebrated, in the deepest way, everyday life—the meaning of everyday life: more, the importance of everyday life. He underlined at all times the connection of man to nature, and nature to man—and the tragedy when that connection is broken, by vanity, by ignorance, by pride. I still remember how the hair stood up on the back of my arms when I read my first Budbill poem, sent by then EAP poetry editor Harvey Lillywhite, “The Subway Philanthropist.” I immediately shot off an email, “Who is this guy? I want him for EAP!” So ignorant was I of his already almost legendary career.
But he forgave me my ignorance, pleased at my enthusiasm, and sent me, from time to time, poems that he thought might be, as we call it around here, ‘very EAP’.
And they always were. More than that, of course. Very universal indeed.
We’re reposted that first poem David graciously allowed us to use for the original version of EAP: The Magazine: “The Subway Philanthropist.” Reading it again, I see (alas!) it speaks even deeper truth today than it did in 2007, when I first took it in with such amazed attention.
We’ll miss him terribly. But we still have the work. Poems never go away.