Essays / Faculty

Patrick Donnelly’s Inspirations

I walk this lonesome valley behind many pillars of fire, not all of whom are poets: Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Christopher Smart, John Keats and Walter Jackson Bate’s biography of Keats (dead at 25), Pound’s “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” William Meredith’s “The Illiterate,” Tennyson’s inconsolable In Memoriam, Maria Callas (dead at 53), Judy Garland (dead at 47), Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra singing “One For My Baby,” Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing “As With Rosy Steps,” then dying at age 52, Mozart’s song “Abendemfindung” (our friends’ tears already flow over our grave; he died at 35), Bach’s cantata Ich Habe Genug, Nina Simone, drunk, abandoned and delusional in “Lilac Wine,” Beethoven’s “To the Far-Away Beloved” sung by Fritz Wunderlich (dead from falling down the stairs, likely drunk, at 36), Rufus Wainwright, Ray LaMontagne singing “Trouble,” Iris DeMent singing “No Time To Cry,” The Tale of the Heike, The Tale of Genji, and The Pillow Book, John Dowland’s “Flow My Tears” and Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, all of Diane Seuss’s poems, Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her and Bad Education, Fellini’s La Strada, 8 ½, and La Dolce Vita, the howling, ecstatic qawwali songs of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Hebrew psalms, the black church baptizing in white robes in a river in Melbourne, Florida which I saw when I was six, the thousand-and-one golden bodhisattvas of mercy at Sanjūsangen-dō temple in Kyoto, the statue of the monk Kuya at Rokuharamitsu-ji with six tiny Buddhas coming out of his mouth, and the incomparably delicate fingers of Miroku Bosatsu, from the year 700, in the treasure house of Kōryū-ji.

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