Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in continue firm and constant.
Edited and compiled by Robert Sward
and Friendship -
The Poet in Bandages
by Ruth Daigon
This was to be my first poetry reading. An hour had gone by and there was no poet. I was getting impatient and so was the crowd. There were at least 300 of us.
"Wait" Ethel said who dragged me there in the first place. "It's a tradition. Poets are special creatures.
At that moment the door swung open and a tall bearded figure with a beatific smile on his face, head swathed in a bloody bandage, blew in.
"What an entrance. Now that's the way to grab the crowd This guy's got something, " I thought.
And this guy, Robert Sward, has been grabbing crowds ever since we heard him in the late 60's. It was part of the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, a state funded program that sent poets to Connecticut colleges and universities to read their poetry and the English Department at the University of Connecticut always imported the best. He was great. All 300 of us gave him a standing ovation. I wasn't sure I understood everything he said...but he said it so well. And you could certainly hear him. Talk about projection. But, I was still a little suspicious about that bandage. Was it blood or ketchup, and just part of a great act? After all it was the late 60's and he seemed to embody all the wild talent and enthusiasm of the time.
Ten years later when I started writing and sending my poems out to rather unsympathetic editors (and who can blame them), I noticed that Robert Sward was now teaching at the University of Victoria and had started a publishing house. I remember that wild-eyed character from years before and thought "Why not?" So off went a fat envelope to this Sward. I was astonished when he wrote back with sympathy and encouragement although, of course, he never accepted anything, but I thought "This is a real "mensch", and I saved the letter which I showed him years later.
In the late eighties, we moved to the Bay area and I was excited about the whole poetry scene. We went to a lot of readings. Some good. Some not so good. When I noticed the ad for Robert Sward who was reading with Jack Foley at the "Y", and I had my own reading coming up there, I wanted to inspect the hall, the accoustics, the size of the crowd and Artie and I drove over the San Rafael bridge to Berkeley. We made it in plenty of time. When did anything ever start on time in the Bay area?
We had been editing and publishing our little mag. Poets On: for ten years and I was always looking for good material. Jack read with his usual energy and rhythm and then it was Robert's turn. I was really curious to see if it would have the same pizzazz as it did twenty-five years ago. Well, it certainly did.
After the meeting, we went over and introduced ourselves to Robert and told him about the UConn reading and how exciting it was. Robert grabbed Artie's arm and said "You were there? Tell me about it!" It seems he was run over by a car in Boston on his way to the reading, and has no memory of it or anything else that happened those next few days. Amnesia.
"Oh, so that was really blood" I said, and we told him what we remembered about that performance. Then we went out for coffee and talked and talked and talked. It was like Robert was reclaiming a lost part of his life. We made plans to visit the next time Robert and Gloria came to the Bay area and have been in touch ever since.
Later, Robert showed us a poem of his titled "Amnesia". We grabbed it for our next issue, and it attracted a lot of attention. Over these ten years whenever Robert reads in the area or something special is going on, we get together, share our work and keep in close touch.
At one point when we were visiting Santa Cruz, Robert demonstrated his computer, and all the acrobatics it performed on the Internet. He talked us into getting connected and gave us the Internet servers CD diskette. It was AOL which I curse every morning and evening until it finally behaves.
Robert introduced me to a few editors, one of whom was Oscar Aguilera who edits Pares Cum Paribus at the University of Chile. Oscar published a chapbook of mine both in English and in Spanish, and we were off to the races.
Now, I'm an old hand at it. Whenever I go on line and visit any of the quality E mags, a Sward poem is sure to turn up. His poetry is all over the Internet and sometimes we make the same mag at the same time. I think we both help each other with advice, criticism, and professional info. He's given me a number of leads and I was very happy to be able to recommend certain mags in which his work now appears. I know that if I need to consult with anyone about anything to do with poetry, I can E mail Robert. There is always warmth, support and interest extended and I prize our friendship.
Ruth Daigon made the transition from concert soprano to full time poet, editor, performance artist. She began the publication Poets On: a theme-oriented poetry journal, and was its editor for its twenty year life. She has frequently appeared in Internet publications, hard copy magazines and anthologies. Her most recent book Between One Future And The Next, Papier Mache Press, was published in 1995. Ruth's latest book " The Moon Inside" (Gravity/Newton's Baby) made its appearance in 1999.