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. See all of Chuck's letters here.
There was a sort of bistro we used to frequent in Los Angeles on layovers between our flights from New York and back. Ten or fifteen times, returning to the hotel, I met the same street-singer, and we took the random offering of our contact to come a little more alive and well.
He'd sing some jazz, and I would be his audience. I'd give him a five or a ten or, once, a twenty, but it was only that one time, and it was a while after this:
I asked him one night, after another of our lyrical conversations, if he could help me to an understanding of the basis of our more than ordinary affinity.
With his index finger tapping on my chest and the history of art in his rheumy eyes, he said this—a heart knows a heart. He said a heart knows a heart.
And isn’t it the failure sometimes of our poetic representations, to make romance of the deprivations of street-singers, and isn’t it our triumph sometimes to do the same with our own, to wrangle from our aches a thing sublime and lilting with a new reality?
It has been nearly fifty years since we began to perceive the element of racism in the phrase, “Columbus discovered America.” Isn’t poetry exactly this, discovering hearts, writers’ and readers,’ their teeming contents, already there? And to arrange from our distillations true and engaging things, isn’t it the way of poetry, exactly this, to awaken in a reader’s heart the things already there and burgeoning?