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JOHN T

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My Favorite Season. I know I'm not alone. I've experienced it in several countries on two continents (Europe and North America), and it's no different. After the long summer—which may have been rainy, or hot and humid, or hot and dry, depending on locale—we experience a sense of relief, even joy, that is bred into our DNA. Autumn brings a certain endedness, a finality, intimations of mortality, sadness, even melancholy, but we love it. Why? I'll give a brief speculation at my page on the poet Rilke.

Writing Joy. I've been a passionate writer of poetry and prose since I learned how to write. I love the shamanic joy of entering that spirit world of imagination, where our myths and stories dwell. As a trained journalist (in addition to poet and story teller), my job is to get the story and bring it to readers. That's true whether I am reporting on a human event in a nearby town, or a fictional adventure in a distant land, or a euphoric poem about the stars and our fate. Writing is a gift, like epic fire carried by runners in flickering torches from Olympos by night. What is the message? Why is it urgent? Why do we stir and look to the horizon with a mixture of unease and thrilling anticipation? This is my joy and passion: carrying that fire to you. I do it to share with you, but also for sheer joy of doing it (whether you understand me, or think I am babbling in some alien code). It's okay.

New England. I had the great fortune to grow up in a New England college town, New Haven, with its historic buildings and neo-Gothic aspirations, old fortress in a new empire. I had come as a child from across the sea, in countries more prone to the Western Maritime climate (common to the British Isles and northwestern Europe as it is to Vancouver, Washington, and Oregon) than to the sharp, severe seasons of New England. Just as parts of me are Luxemburgish, German, and French (places I lived for significant periods of time), and I have been a happy Southern Californian for the latter part of my life, so I will always remain a New Englander at heart. Every year, around Labor Day (late August, early September), it's like being pierced by an arrow out of nowhere: "summer is over; fall is here." In New England, we have a poetic term for autumn: fall. It's fall, and I'm sure it has to do with visions of trillions of leaves turning colors and dropping from the sky like flaming confetti. The heat and humidity of a New England tidal marsh summer evaporate, and the bugs disappear as if they are alien to the crisp, cool, fresh air that carries strong portents of change.

This Amazing Gift: Life. Whether you are a poet or not, we all share the wondrous and ever-surprising beauty of this world. It is by turns awe-inspiring, terrifying, cruel, and gorgeous. There are as many adjectives as there are autumn leaves piled by the roadsides. In the old days, we'd burn piles of leaves, and the air would fill with a certain woodsy, smoky aroma.

Big Picture. This autumnal jazz is part of Gaia, our heritage in the universe, the unity of this biological, evolutionary continuum with its inbred (successful) RNA/DNA heritage. When I lift my head, while tending a small boat off West Haven in Long Island Sound, and sense the shockwave passing through me as fall drives summer away, so might a hunter have stood half a million years ago on a peak in the Alps or a jungle in Sudan, and felt the exact same signal. So I am tuned in, to those darting riffs of Mozart, that jazz of Coltrane (sheets of sound), as are all who carry the shaman's rattle and make the keening chant at beauty's and love's grave (to be ever resurrected, an endless succession of Orpheus and Eurydice drifts through time and space, light and dark). That autumn feeling is part of the annual hunting and crop cycles, bred into us from being a species upon this wondrous planet the past million years or more. It is part of us, and we are part of it.

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A Note: On Saint Ronan Street. Here too, I didn't really set out to write an autumn or fall love story—nor did I intend for this to be fast food fantasy. I wrote it in a state of wonder and melancholy while stationed with the U.S. Army in West Germany during the Cold War. I made it all up, from my heart and emotional core, while sitting and typing in an old Hitler-era stone barracks (Panzerkaserne), listening to soft strains of Mozart symphonies on a small cassette deck by my side. Outside, lamplight glistened on cobblestones right out of Lili Marlene. I missed my lost world of New Haven, which I knew was forever gone from my life. I had already made the transition to SoCal, alternately driving and hitch hiking across much of the USA as a youth in my early 20s. There, in Germany, while I worked hard and served honorably, I was able to drive in my cool orange VW van to amazing places like Paris or Brussels or Heidelberg, to name sjust a few, all of them just a few hours' drive on Autobahns and Autostradas where jazzy cars whisper by at over 150 mph in their precisely engineered slipstreams. If only life were that clean nand smooth. I wrote a nostalgic, melancholy celebration of an imagined love to mark my own rough steps into maturity in that amazing college town. I wrote it as a soldier by cobblestones and lamplight, usually glistening with rain, and softly echoing with Mozart's No. 40 and 41. It was Rheinland-Pfalz, as truly Mozart country as any other place in Europe. It was real. So, almost, is the story in On Saint Ronan Street (named after a centuries-old lane in New Haven, where the autumn leaves lie swirled in rainy droves, as do those bright green springtime buds like matted tea…but read the novel. It's all in there, along with poetry by one Charles Egeny, described in the 27duet (this novel, plus 64 selected poems from my Cymbalist Poems.)