Chuck Tripi has lived a life of poetry and study since a medical catastrophe suddenly ended his flying career in 1998. After his poem "Crack-Up" was published in HFR's 47th issue, he struck up a correspondence with Managing Editor Beth Staples. His epistolary perspective on writing and the writing life has been so valuable to Beth, she wanted to share some of his notes here. He writes from Sussex County.
In a prior life, I did other things and saw differently. And how could there be poetry without these prior lives and previous vantage points?
We were flying an all-nighter from Los Angeles to New York on the 707, an airplane the élan of which will never be attained to again, one thinks and thought, wrong twice.
As happens sometimes in the middle of the night, we were cleared direct, and once the I.N.S. was set, the night turned into one of watching for the unexpected.
The Captain owned a sailboat which had outlived its usefulness as a bare-boat charter in Tortola, and he was giving it away to a college in Florida for the tax write-off. As the three of us sat there smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and watching all the blinking lights and the needles on the dials, the copilot asked whether the Captain had depreciated the boat for tax purposes. He had, to zero. “The boat is worth nothing, then,” the copilot said, “The value of the write-off is also zero.”
So there it was, like jazz and poetry, the unexpected note:
He took the longest drag of his unfiltered Camel, the Captain did, exhaling it shimmering and blue, turned to us, his audience for three thousand miles, and said the most wonderful thing—“You know, it’s a goddamn good thing I really love to sail.”
It’s a tough racket, poetry, full of striving and missing the mark, of almost accidental successes and utterly undeserved disappointments. Shouldn’t we poets, all of us, new, emerging, established, coming or going, stay awake to its pleasures and enrichments?
CKT, 8/14/11, Lake Mohawk