Don Wall passed away about a year ago from some rare blood infection. I never met him, yet his absense is a huge hole in my life. I suppose we were pen pals, but I counted him as a dear friend.
Getting to know him was a small miracle. Another friend from graduate school, Randy Bowley, was living out in Washington, working as a librarian at a boarding school in Yakima. He had bought a copy of my first chapbook from UNT. He then lent the book to a friend on the English faculty were he worked. His friend belonged to a writers circle which included his creative writing teacher from Eastern Washington University, professor emeritus Don Wall. Don was taken by the chapbook. He tracked me down via email, I think through Randy, and our correspondance began. It started with Don writing me a fan letter. But it didn’t stop there. He did everything he could to promote my writing. I think he must of bought close to a dozen copies of the book, giving them away to friends, former students and colleagues. He was certain that it was only a matter of getting the book in the right hands to foster my literary career. He was an ebullient man. Not manic; I never encountered a down Don, at least when his health was good.
Don asked me to look at his poetry and make suggestions to him. I’m a librarian. The man was a professor emeritus, but I tried my best. He told me often that I needed to get out of the library biz and teach creative writing, telling me often that I had a light but deft touch. When the Flaw came out Don, worked to place it in independent book stores in the Northwest, sent copies to Scandinavia, and kept buying and handing them out.
Our notes to each other touched on many things: worries for our children, and our shared love of soccer(Don captained the Syracuse U men’s team as an undergrad, I kept the bench secure for the University of Dallas). Don sent me his favorite books to read. He was an agnostic, and we wrote and explored notions of belief and doubt. Last year at spring break, I had planned to go out to Washington and meet him. His health failed around the New Year, and he passed away before the break. I miss him. I wonder what he would have thought of Remembering the Body. I’m excited that the new book is out, but it’s bitter sweet for me. I keep thinking about all the folks who have lent my writing their support over the years who aren’t here anymore. Men like Randy Bowley, Les Palmer and Don.