In my Humble Opinion

Who wrote the book of love?

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 2/12/20

I know it wasn’t me. I’ve written about a number of subjects over the last 30 years, including skydiving, camping, washing machines and the art of bonsai—but love? Not my strong …

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In my Humble Opinion

Who wrote the book of love?

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I know it wasn’t me. I’ve written about a number of subjects over the last 30 years, including skydiving, camping, washing machines and the art of bonsai—but love? Not my strong suit. I think I’ve only really been in love once, and while that relationship lasted for 18 years, it was far from a smooth ride. In fact, it was a bumpy road—one that I’ve not chosen to travel down again. But I love my dog with all my heart and I know that she loves me, so we’re good. With Black Friday (I mean Valentine’s Day) looming, love is in the air, but much like our 42nd president… I refuse to inhale.

That said, there was plenty of love in the room last Saturday. Dharma and I visited the Western Sullivan Public Library in Narrowsburg, NY where Mark Blackford, Bizzy Coy and William Fellenberg were slated to read poetry, short stories and excerpts from their memoirs, respectively. Blackford has the distinction of being named “Sullivan County’s first-ever Poet Laureate,” a title which makes me nervous since poetry is not on the short list of things that I tend to love. Honestly, poetry makes me feel just a little bit stupid since I usually don’t “get it.” I feel like the odd man out when a room full of people appear to drink in the heady words that flow from the poet’s heart, while mine remains unmoved, cold and black. 

“I’ve invited Bizzy and Bill to join me today,” Blackford began by way of introduction, “because I have a tendency to be depressing and bring the house down, and the other writers will lift your spirits.” As if Mark could read my mind, picking up on my uncomfortable relationship with poetry, he informed the packed room that his work is comprised of “essentially simple stories” exploring his own family dynamic in both past and present form. 

Far from “simple,” Blackford held me and the audience in the palm of his hand as he expounded on love, marriage and self-loathing, artfully blended with humor, pathos and some thoughtfully worded insight on the human condition. “This is probably the most violent love poem ever written,” he said before launching into a beat-generation-style piece titled “Please Don’t Take This the Wrong Way.” I think Blackford has made me a convert, and I am quite sure that I “got it.” Is it possible that I now love poetry? Hmmm.

Following Mark was the effervescent Bizzy Coy, who I have waxed rhapsodic about in the pages of The River Reporter on numerous occasions. Coy exudes je ne sais quoi, a beautiful French turn of phrase that means “a quality that cannot be described easily” regardless of how many times I try. Her laugh-out-loud “Single Girls Guide to Internet Dating” takes place here in the Catskills and I actually audibly snorted, secretly thrilled that I wasn’t drinking milk when it happened, if you know what I mean. Bizzy’s love life may be in shambles, but her loss is our gain.

Rounding out the program, William Fellenberg read a few poems and an excerpt from his work-in-progress memoir “Sayonara Cowboy,” which explores his life as a child of parents who hail from wildly different cultures. His mother fled the United States and returned to Japan, abandoning his father and four-year-old Bill, leaving his father broken and “little Billy” brokenhearted. Like Blackford and Coy before him, Fellenberg has a unique ability to manipulate the English language with a style that I truly admire, using words to paint a picture and convey deep thought mixed with humor in ways that only a rare few (IMHO) can do. Against all odds, I walked away having genuinely loved the collective work of all three writers, something I had not thought possible—I had not experienced that before. I’m still trying to figure out why Fellenberg made a point of placing a pen and a sponge next to his notebook after being introduced, but I love his writing, so I will leave that unanswered question hanging in the air. As far as I’m concerned, this talented trio wrote the book of love. One thing is sure: It wasn’t me.

For more information regarding library programs, visit www.wspl.org.

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