Charles Bukowski once called Gerald Locklin “one of the greatest undiscovered talents of our times.” With more than 3,000 published poems, stories, articles, reviews, and interviews and more than 125 books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, Locklin is also one of America’s most prolific writers. Next Saturday, September 27, at 1 p.m., the poet and professor will appear at the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival to receive the annual poetry award from its namesake, Glenna Luschei.
Locklin will read from his most recently released book, Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems, as well as other recent books and chapbooks including The Cezanne/Pissarro Poems; New Orleans, Chicago, and Points Elsewhere; and Wedlock Sunday and Other Poems. Paul Kareen Taylor has called him “a legend,” and noted poet Edward Field wrote of Locklin, “The male spirit in him remains honest, bighearted, sentimental, generous, gentle, vulnerable, but sassy in the face of adversity-qualities that could be applied to as few American poets as to presidents.” Field has also noted, “No one knows what to make of his poetry since he’s both a scholar and a populist, and poetry critics don’t like populism.” In Wedlock Sunday and Other Poems, Locklin writes:
I guess I still, in my 60s
can’t remove my gaze from women
of all ages, of all manners of beauty;
of all postures in regard to the
warfare that is life.
ah well, i’m in good company:
Picasso couldn’t either.
Interviewer Michael Basinski wrote that Locklin is “at his best writing about great art or great jazz.” After an Internet search and reading several of his books he generously sent me, I would add to that list the poems he has written about his children, which are both poignant and true. Locklin wrote in an email to me, “I consider my poems to my children the most important to me that I have written, and they are the ones penned in sweat and tears-because I want so badly to make sure that every word is the right one.” Here is an excerpt from a poem called “No Longer a Teenager” in his book The Life Force Poems:
when she left I said, simply,
“i love you,”
and she replied, quietly,
“i love you too.”
you know it isn’t always easy for
a twenty-year-old to say that;
it isn’t always easy for a father.
literature and opera are full of
characters who die for love:
i stay alive for her.
Born in Rochester, New York, in 1941, Locklin has always been a poet, even at age three dictating to his aunt about what he saw outside the window. In a recent phone conversation, he mentioned he was raised Catholic, and recited a Latin prayer verbatim from his altar boy days before telling me he had to “split,” joking that postmodernists would call this “mixing the discourses.” His quick wit, pith, and honesty weave through his conversation as well as his poems. When he retired from Long Beach State, poems written in his honor were collected in a chapbook, Some for the Road. Editor Todd Fox says in the introduction that Locklin is loved for how he “treats every writer as his equal with respect and humanity.” That has certainly been my experience.
Gerald Locklin will appear at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. For more information, call 965-3023 or visit sbbookfestival.org.