Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good bye, Bill

Last Saturday afternoon, October 14, the world of poetry, haiku, and writing lost a bright light when Bill Higginson died. He knew what was coming, says his wife and fellow poet, Penny Harter. She and Bill's daughter, Beth, were with him, holding his hands and singing "Amazing Grace."

I met Bill and Penny at the Border Book Festival on an amazing day when writers, artists, and scientists got together to testify through our work about what the Chihuahuan Desert meant to each of us. Thanks to the vision of Festival honcha and novelist Denise Chávez and the dedication of the staff of the Jornada Experimental Range, it was a magical day. We toured the desert's achingly open spaces in a big bus, stopping to read right outside in that intense landscape to an audience who sat on folding chairs set out on the dusty soil at each stop. We all came away enriched, our hearts opened to the landscape and to each other--word-artists, scientists, and audience alike.

Bill's poetry won awards and citations, his books were lauded in many ways, and he was seen as a giant of haiku, whether the writing, the teaching, or the translation. What struck me most about Bill was why he loved haiku. As he says in The Haiku Handbook, written with Penny:
Being small, haiku lend themselves especially to sharing small, intimate things. By recognizing the intimate things that touch us we come to know and appreciate ourselves and our world more. By sharing these things with others we let them into our lives in a very special, personal way.
Bill's work opened a door for many of us. And now that he's gone, I guess it's not surprising that haiku proliferate in the blogosphere in his memory. Here's one:
bird on a high wire
singing his song
so long, so long
--Andrew Burke, Hi Spirits
The week he died, I saw a shooting star, thought of Bill and Penny, and though I make no claim to poetry, haiku came to mind. I offer this for them both, with love and gratitude:
a shooting star, crisp
white as a fall frost, streaks past
then fades. Goodnight, Bill.

1 comment:

eduardo said...

Where do "we" go, when "we go"? If there is indeed, conservation of matter, then the physical (at least) gets transformed. But is the stuff that makes us, "us," matter, or something other? If the part of Bill that's the-Bill-we-loved-and-missed, is gone, then "Good bye," "Godspeed," and all the rest is called for.

But, if he's merely to be transformed (which is where my suspicions and belief lie), then might we ought say, instead, "See you around"?

(Yet, even if so, no longer having the physical and tangible Bill is gonna leave a lotta marks...)