This Sept. 25 it will be one year since the “people's poet,” David Budbill died at his home of progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare form of Parkingson's disease. He was 76.
After his death I rearranged his books on my shelf, and dusted them gently. But it was not until this week that I pulled a few down to read his profoundly simple and immediate poetry once again.
Poetry that Parnassus Books called: “as accessible as a parking lot, and as plain as a pair of Levi's.” Mr. Budbill perfectly captured the Vermont seasons, and the pleasures of daily life, in poems that radiated a dialogue with the natural world through an absolute clarity of expression. The peace of a wilderness home, love, loneliness, the bittersweetness of life's brevity, always accompanied by an endearing wit, creativity, and the of living in fully in the present.
Today while walking through the rainy woods heading home
all I can think about is how all too soon I will be gone
and never will I walk again beneath
these barren, rain-soaked trees, never will I pad again
over these soft and quiet leaves, never return
home again to stand beside the warming stove,
never again be drunk on sadness or on wine.
If only I would never reach the end!
If only I could always only be on my Way.
Born in Cleveland, for more than 40 years he lived a humble, yet full life in a small cabin in Wolcott, where he embraced his world – the mountain, the writing, the music, the gardening, the woodcutting, the solitude. It was there that he created the fictional town of Judevine, named after a local mountain, that was filled with an wide assortment of local eccentric Vermonters. The Judevine collections, Why I Came to Judevine, Judevine: The Complete Poems, and the play, Judevine, have poems and passages filled with joy, humor, sadness, and insight, that are at once lyrical and starkly beautiful. He once said: “I'm interested in the invisible people, the downtrodden, the put upon, and the forgotten. I want to make art that the common people can understand, use, find meaningful and enjoy.”
In August 2017, Copper Canyon Press published David Budbill's eighth book of poetry, “Tumbling toward the End.” A candid assessment of imminent mortality haunted by the timbre of great physical pain, and yet they sing of the delights of a modest, honorable, mindful life.
Mid-September and the setting sun illuminates the 50-foot
white pine that stands between the house and garden.
I can see parts of the tree I never see any other time of
the day or year. The inner branches blaze orange and gold
in the setting sun. Through an absolutely clear, blue sky
a jet, bright and brilliant silver in the setting sun, goes over
the top of the tree at 30,000 feet. Today's half-moon is
to the right, and by the time I write this the jet has gone
under the moon and disappeared. When I turn again to look,
the light – once all orange and gold – is gone, and the tree is
again its ordinary, usual, impenetrable, green self.
The New York Times wrote of the poet: “Budbill belongs in the tradition of American letters inaugurated by Thoreau and continuing today...wherein the writer abandons the cacophony of human society for a little paradise in the woods, but instead of quietly living out his days in smog-free solitude, insists on coming to town every few months to remind us of what a benighted existence we're living.”
I go to the waterfall
and listen to the water fall.
I sit on a rock
and stare at the sky.
I watch my self disappear
into the world around me.
His grand spirit and the delightful poetry of this man of Vermont, will long live on in his books, and plays.