The publication date (November
8, 2001) of Red Car Goes By coincides with the date of Jack Collom's
birthday. There is no poet who is more gleefully inventive, and none who
has more thoroughly and meticulously fostered poetry as a way of life.
Six people were involved in choosing the poems for the volume: Reed Bye,
Clark Coolidge, Larry Fagin, Merrill Gilfillan, Lyn Hejinian, and Jack
Collom rejects the notion that
a distinction is to be made between the quotidian and the poetic. There
is poetry everywhere. But to find poetry everywhere means that one is
incessantly engaged with the world at the level of poetry. The result
is a dance between fierce notation and ceilingless song.
Like any volume that encompasses
a lifetime of writing, this is a volume of themes and variations. Among
the themes are three of particular prominence: the experience of love,
the nature of time, and the problem of our role on earth.
Love, as Collom demonstrates, puts
us in the world. It is the mode of a maximal commitment to living a life.
This is, by definition, a life in time. Time is the origin, not the obstacle
to experience. But this milieu is not without fragility. Humans waste
time just as they waste the planet. It is in protesting this that Collom's
lyric poetry is also what he calls an ecological poetry.
For writers of at least three generations
now, Jack Collom's poetry and poetics have set a standard for the appreciation
of earthly experience in elemental, quick-tempo'd language. This large
selection of his work represents the scope of his life's work; it is wonderful
to have it available.
Jack Collom was born in Chicago,
and grew up in nearby Western Springs to the tune of the Denver Zephyrs.
He did a lot of walking in Salt Creek Woods and began birdwatching at
the age of 11. The family moved west and he graduated from Fraser (Colorado)
High School in a class of 4, then attended Forestry School at State A&M.
He joined the U.S. Air Force and
wrote his first poems in Tripoli, Libya. After spending time in Germany,
he returned to the U.S. and worked in factories for twenty years. He has
four grown children and is married to the writer Jennifer Heath.
Having earned an M.A. in English
on the GI Bill, Collom has been a free-lance teacher (mostly as Poet-in-the-Schools)
for 25 years. He also teaches part-time at Naropa University, mostly Ecology
Literature and Writing Outreach.
Jack Collom is the author of 17
small press books of poetry and two Cds, and he is the editor of three
collections (with commentaries) of writings by children. He has twice
been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.