by Roger Zotti
The acclaimed poet and president of the William Meredith Foundation, Richard Harteis, asserts that the publication of David Fisher’s collected poems, “I Hear Always the Dogs on the Hospital Roof” may be “the most important project we have completed in the past five years since William’s death and the establishment of the foundation in his name.”
The book was published by Little Red Tree Publishing and Fisher is the recipient of the first William Meredith Award for Poetry.
Harteis is, of course, grateful to many people for their artistic contributions, acknowledging that, “in making the award a reality, [it represents] a really remarkable pooling of arts institutions in the area.” The award presentation took place in May at the Courtyard Gallery, Mystic.
In his foreword to the book, Harteis explains that: “David Fisher [is] a poet William first invited to the Library of Congress and who won the award for best book published in 1978. For decades, David has continued to write remarkable work despite multiple hospitalizations and family tragedies such as the death of his children.
“His is a remarkable spirit, fully matching William’s as he struggled for 25 years to come back from a stroke and return to some kind of normalcy in his life and continue to write poems. David is a hero of large dimension, a poet of great tenderness, power, and imagination. We look forward to seeing his work in print again which has for so long been neglected.”
Fisher was surprised by the award, remarking that “I couldn’t believe Richard was going to give this award to me. I haven’t had a chance to see it, but I heard that my dear friend Grace Cavalieri did an introduction for it also, which I can’t wait to see.”
Fisher remarks that his stories for the The New Yorker “are quite funny,” but he reminds us that his poetry expresses “joy and loss. I have lost children—drowned, and so forth—and this work expresses my lifelong concern for those children.” That said, he hopes readers take from his book “the love of both wives and children because that is, above all, what this book is about.”
In her introduction, Cavalieri writes, “It’s a sharp world you’ll enter now with David Fisher’s poetry.”
Here are just three examples of David’s sharpness—and his resonating imagery. In “Death of a Son,” he writes: “The love/ Spilled out of dear eyes, like a cup, the loss/ Of the loved greeting, as tangible/ As a fall from a building.”
We read in “A Junkie With a Flute in the Rain” that “A junkie howls/ at a bus stop/… / pigeons are thin as sparrows, / the roaches big as grapes… /On park benches/ old men are stacked/ like doves on a telephone pole.”
In “The Boxcar,” he writes that “a boxcar rolled/ through the night/ it slowed/ and stopped/ there were whispering noises/ as the spiders rolled back/ the doors/the low moon passed through the/ open car like a spear.”
Harteis suggests that for additional information about the book “and the latest Paul Newman-like project we have to help support the [William Meredith Award for Poetry], visit www.williammeredithfoundation.org and click on ‘poetic wine blend.’”