Be Swift, My Soul

At the end of October we lost another poet from our community: Colin B. Douglas. Colin has been coming to Speak For Yourself Open Mic for so long that I can’t remember his first week. He’s just been a fixture since the beginning. He was one of the founding members of Rock Canyon Poets and had a permanent seat at “the cool kids table” on Thursday nights.

We shared a deep faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and a deep love of poetry, but in many ways were very different. He delivered many a kindly lecture that I took under advisement and sorted through later. Sometimes the only take-away was that this thoughtful man genuinely cared about me, but often he pointed me towards poets whose work would inform my own or gave me insight into history that I was too young to have in my bones. He gave me and my work the privilege of his attention and he approached both with curiosity and without judgment.

His funeral was beautiful. It was both conventionally Mormon and not conventionally Mormon, which seemed a perfect reflection of his life. His daughter Liz gave a not-eulogy (poignantly because “a eulogy feels like the period a sentence” and I agree–this transition is not final punctuation for Colin). We learned a lot of delightful things about Colin-before-I-knew-him. He once chopped off part of his finger while chopping wood because he was composing a poem in his head! He took books of French poetry to read during the down time at his son’s soccer games. And when he was in the bishopric he would hold his feet a few inches off the ground during sacrament meeting so he wouldn’t fall asleep on the stand.

His granddaughter read a lovely poem she had written for him and the hymns for the meeting were performed gorgeously by a pair of folk singers with a guitar. His son Mike told stories and shared quotes that rang in our minds with Colin’s distinctive voice and cadence. He also shared Colin’s last words, which landed in my heart with the force of any good poem. In his final moments, with great effort, he said, “Be unfailingly kind.”

A poet to the end, he knew how to craft that final line.

The program for Colin’s funeral

Rest in Peace, Father Sluggo

The night that Trish called to tell me that Darin Whittaker, also known as Father Sluggo to both poetry and music fans, was no longer with us we had already been missing him. Concerned about bringing Covid home to his aging parents, he hadn’t been at the open mic for quite a while and we were having technical difficulties. “If Darin was here, he could fix this,” I had said, not realizing what had happened a few days before.

He was a talented poet and we loved what he brought to the mic, but it was his kindness and the way that he stepped up to help without needing to be asked that made him indispensable in our poetry community. He took it upon himself to hang fliers around town, help move tables, and, yes, magically make the touchy amp actually work.

I was able to attend his funeral in Orem, Utah and convey our condolences to his family. A copy of Orogeny was laying open in a display of beloved personal items (like his distinctive hat!). I looked closely to see his familiar eyes in his clean-cut high-school-senior-photo face. As I said a final goodbye, it felt like he could hop up at any minute. It still seems a bit unreal that he is gone. His sister read two of his poems during the service and I could hear his voice in my mind as clearly as if he had actually been at the open mic that week. His niece shared some of his favorite jokes (groaners, all of them) and another sister shared touching and fun stories from his life.

The pews were packed, as well you might imagine they would be, and I kept thinking about how many people there were who wanted to come but couldn’t. And that doesn’t even come close to the number of people he touched in his 48 years. How I wish he had 48 more.

Fourth Annual Poetry Contest Winners!

Join me in congratulating our poetry contest winners. Look for them in a poemball machine near you in the coming months! Also, in the next few weeks our winners will be featured at the Speak For Yourself Open Mic.

1st Place Winner: Cindy King for “We Maenads”

1st Runner Up: Lorraine Jeffery for “Eiderdown”

2nd Runner Up: Maurine Haltiner for “Resume–Ailanthus Altissima”

Thank you to everyone who submitted. We love to read your work! Look for emails regarding those that have been chosen to be in the next round of poemballs.