Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Don’t Laugh at My Poetry!

by R. A. Rycraft

It’s heartbreaking. To lose a master poet, certainly. To lose a cherished friend, more so. Steve Kowit no longer walks among us, but he is immortalized in his work. We have that. We can enjoy his wit and hear his voice, feel his passion... his compassion... sense the shifts in humor through his tone, view our world through the light and lens of his imagery. We—the collective We—have that.

I’m distressed to discover that I took him for granted. Time and distance dull incentive and motivation to keep in touch with someone who should always be there. A ruthless email inbox cleaner, I discovered last night that I didn’t save a single personal note from Steve. Desperately, I searched all of my email folders and came up empty-handed. You know what I saved? The business notes. Notes filled with details of his upcoming readings at the college where I teach. Notes that strategized his visits to my creative writing classes to discuss his poetry with my students. Notes about essays he wanted me to consider for SHJ. Notes that are perfunctory and to the point...well, as perfunctory and to the point as Steve was capable of being, like this note about his fee for reading at the college:

Ricki—as long as you pay me my minimum fee of $26,000 it will be okay. I know that as soon as I go public with the photos of my sizzling affair with Tiger Woods (yes, he swings both ways), my asking fee will more than triple. So you’re getting in under the wire!

And even though I can hear his voice in those notes, most of them lack the easy back and forth banter and teasing I’d find in Steve’s personal notes to me—sweet notes between friends talking about Blackwater in Steve’s backyard and his animals and my animals and retirement and health and... and... and... and... I can’t remember what all else. There are none of the notes that included funny or touching animal videos we’d share with one another, the first one being the “Christian the Lion” video which made both of us cry:

Two men and a lion

I’m heartbroken those emails are gone, that I didn’t take care of them, that they are lost through thoughtless acts of efficiency...deleting nonessential emails. How could I do that? How could I choose to hang on to all of the notes related to business and toss those precious notes written just for me?

So, this morning I went to our “Friends” bookcase in the entryway of our home and gathered every single Steve Kowit book we own (which is all of them), knowing I would find personal notes inscribed for Duff and for me, remembering—as I picked out In the Palm of Your Hand, The Maverick Poets, Lurid Confessions, The Dumbbell Nebula, The First Noble Truth, The Gods of Rapture, Greatest Hits 1978–2003, Crossing Borders, and Everything is Okay—Steve sitting at our dining room table, with Duff and friend Clyde Fixmer, after his last reading at the college, eating Eggplant Parmesan and inscribing the stack of books for us with notes like:

Can I buy this book back from you? I know it’s worth lots of money!! ;-)

(In an Uncorrected Proof of In the Palm of Your Hand)


I don’t want you guys laughing at my poetry! Hugs & Kisses!!! Steve

(in Lurid Confessions)
SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

R. A. Rycraft

Non-fiction editor at Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts, R. A. Rycraft has published stories, poems, essays, reviews, and interviews in a number of journals and anthologies, including The Book of Worst Meals: 25 Authors Write about Terrible Culinary Experiences (Serving House Books, 2010), Runnin’ Around: The Serving House Book of Infidelity (Serving House Books, 2014), Pif Magazine, VerbSap, Perigee, The MacGuffin, Calyx, Contemporary World Literature, Del Sol Review, and The Absinthe Literary Review.

Her collection of short stories, You Know, is a Web del Sol World Voices chapbook. Winner of the Eric Hoffer Best New Writing Editor’s Choice Award for 2008, Finalist for the Poets & Writers East/West Competition for 2010, and a Special Mention for the 2010 Pushcart Prize, Rycraft is chair of the English department and Coordinator of the Visiting Writers Series at Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee, California. She is also co-editor of the Serving House Books anthology Winter Tales II: Women on the Art of Aging (2012).

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury