3 responses to “Poetry Takes Wing”

  1. Dick Cummins

    Dan: Great line!

    ‘Oh, to be outside the compressed intensity of time and ambition’s white noise,’

  2. Dan Guenther

    Thanks Dick,
    Whitney’s passing had such a big impact on so many, including many of our Aussie friends who we hung out with in Australia, and have maintained contact with over all these years, going back to the mid-Seventies.

    At the time, many of us American expatriates living down in Sydney were veterans of the Vietnam War, and when we hung out together at the Hotel Cecil in Cronulla there was that undertow of melancholy, and a turning away from the realities we had faced.

    A lot of us lived on trendy Ozone Street, and we liked to party, often into the wee hours, building great bonfires on the beach. One of our more conservative friends, the Australian poet, Les Murray, AO, then editor of Poetry Australia, warned us about Cronulla’s surfer culture, calling it a place of perpetual lotus-eaters.

    Our collective distraction was surfing, an activity that we pursued with a Zen-like preoccupation, often rising at daybreak to ride the curl off Cronulla Beach. It was as if we had found our own version of endless summer along those glorious white sand beaches, the languorous power of that dropout culture being preferable to the realities of working life.

    Unlike my Yank and Aussie mates, my wife and I had traveled a great distance from the sexually infused and liberated Sixties to find a deeper level of commitment. We were starting a family. My mates, on the other hand, remained mired in a confused past, each with their own particular tale, but most of them caught up in that malaise of collective guilt and anger that plagued so many of my fellow combat veterans. After all, we had lost the war, and that was unfinished business as far as they were concerned. The rest was all about wretched excess.

    Somehow, with the support of my wife, I escaped that net of emotional complexity that snared so many of those I called my friends, and the music of Whitney Houston holds a special place in the evolution of our marriage. Whitney’s music touched our hearts and was international with its impact, appreciated across the generations. And for that we all were blessed.

  3. Dick Cummins

    Dan –

    I was in love with Whitney in the ‘80’s – and once watching her on TV said so out loud – must have been drinking. My best girl in Denver threw me over then – for a musician – because she said I had made her jealous and she would never be as beautiful as Whitney or as talented. Good lesson.

    (Further interrogation uncovered that my paramour played tuba in a polka band and had really good drug connections BTW – but still – that’s what loving Whitney got me.)

    Remember a Vonnegut story – think it was called ‘The Kid Nobody Could Handle’ – a band master gives his prized John Phillip Susa trumpet to the tough kid and says – ‘…love yourself and let your instrument sing about it’.

    My favorite Whitney song ends like this:

    “…I found the greatest love of all
    Inside of me – the greatest love of all
    … Learning to love yourself
    It is the greatest love of all”

    After reading your Vietnam Trilogy Dan, I think maybe coming back home from a lost war and with all the things that combat soldiers have to have done, to no parades, no ‘thanks’ for risking your lives– having had to see and maybe do things that no good sons from Iowa would never think of doing – except in war — I would bet that those Vietnam vets down under were having some hard times with self-esteem.

    And alcohol – and drugs – and PTSD. More than a few are probably no longer with us – ‘post war casualties’ of the aftermath would say it.

    At least you had your writing and poetry Dan – and a loving family then that maybe others on that beach didn’t – helped you to love yourself again after that war because words are your instrument.

    It feels so anyway from reading your books … don’t think too many others were so lucky …

    dc – class of ’70.

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