He worked hard and now can rest. He was one of America’s best-loved poets and won all the literary awards. At eighty-six, he had his first New York Times best seller, with Essays After Eighty, celebrating the indignities of growing old. I once gave him a terrible review, and we didn’t speak for years. “I know I was pissed at you for ten or twelve years,” he wrote. “I take it back. You are good.” He was a judge for the Pulitzer the year I was a finalist. We became friends.
He wrote dozens of books: poetry, short stories, children’s books, criticism, and textbooks. He was devoted to the art and craft of writing, and his discipline was an example to others. He seemed to give his life over to work and Eros. He was also very funny and very particular (“I love chicken salad, egg salad as long as it has onion, turkey and salami. I don’t like tuna”). The horrors of antiquity—a “black fatigue,” congestive heart failure, “a hundred and fifty colonoscopies,” walking more slowly with his “rollator,” falling down, the loss of words—did not exclude joy and love. Read More