I've never felt so nervous -- or so inexplicably nervous -- typing an e-mail as I did last summer when asking Robert Kroetsch if he would blurb my collection, Vs. What, I asked myself as I pressed send, is the worst case scenario? It was a toss-up:
1) A reply of "no."
2) No reply.
3) A reply of "who are you and why are you bothering me?"
But, as is almost always the case, my fear was unwarranted. His response was as swift as it was enthusiastic. I mailed off the manuscript and within a few weeks had a beautiful quote for the back cover of the book. It still makes me beam every time I read it.
I met Robert the year before, at the Banff Centre where I was part of the Writing with Style program. He was there as a Visiting Fellow, writing and reading and listening to students read. I was star-struck by his presence, but too shy to approach him.
One afternoon he gave a beautiful reading of his recent work. As he read, one of his hands trembled. I know it was likely age-related, but it looked like he was writing, always, with an invisible pen.
Later that week, I read too -- one of the first times I'd read the boxing poems to an audience. I felt strong and powerful and I could tell that the little audience was engaged. After the reading, Robert came up to me and, unfortunately, I've forgotten everything he said after "Holy mackerel."
I've rolled those two words, in his voice, around in my brain so many times, they've been tumbled smooth. I'll relish them forever. And more, now that he's gone.