Reality Street

Reality is something like me carrying
the bicycle down the steps in the morning,
with a grip at the seat socket on the left
and the stem of the steering post on the right,
carefully placing my recently broken right foot
on the tattered step covering,
crazing open the doors with a little help
from my Puerto Rican neighbors,
“Gracias, gracias!” saying, especially if it’s
the dark white-bearded one who shaves only once a week.
He will hold the beer can in the sack
with a far-away eye which seems to say
it is not I drinking this beer, opening the door
for this American with the suspiciously Spanish-looking wife.
Who rides a bicycle but a boy or a fool?
Help a fool is a kind of harmless custom.

The sidewalk is reality.
We have lost the last tree. The only one
to survive being pissed on and beaten.
And was getting to be a pretty good tree
in front of the shoe store, but obviously
rot had gotten in somewhere.
It failed in the wind last night,
and of course will not be replaced, except by
the beer cans and candy wrappers which seem to be
the true proofs of human occupation and human interest.
The bums in front of Garcia’s are watching to see if Anselmo
will continue to sleep when the sun
comes over the roof of the Brittany building
and shines hard in his eyes.
Their interest isn’t unkind.
Our bums take good care of one another around here.
I’ve seen two of them pick up a third
who had fallen off his egg crate in the street
and set him tenderly back up on end, teetering crazily,
and put his beer can again in his hand.

First, setting the bicycle off the curb,
I look back in the bus barn to be sure
nothing is coming out. With a quick hop and push
I set off against the traffic on the wrong side,
to the corner of 54th Street, then sweep
to the East, before them all, on that street, the one street
I know as I know my face or my kitchen table.
Reality! This is Reality Street—littered with
dog shit and broken auto parts, full of holes
and broken glass to protect a full block
of private cars of policemen in no-parking spots.
They know each other by their lodge signs.
Then the Youth Center, that used to be the night court.
I gather speed, sliding between the front bumpers
to the right, and the outside doors of cars to the left,
banking and spinning the pedals,
I’ve forgotten my broken foot, I’m flying!
Then I must wait to pass the paddy wagon,
they’re loading up with girls-the wigged and raincoated haul
from last night’s war sweep on Eighth Avenue.
The clean up! They’re cleaning up the Avenue,
and professional fucking is being abolished again.
It will have to stand for whatever is being washed this week.
The girls are bored and angry,
they don’t laugh when the cops joke
and the boys from the brick Greek church whistle.
The girls want to get on with their job,
of which this is a piece of the red tape.
I squeeze by and brake it at the corner.
Stopping, I rest, I beam at pedestrians.
It’s 9 a.m.—Exuberant senseless beam—
these are not natives, but people going to work.
Four cops discuss departmental gossip.
They cross against the red light.
No-one in this city obeys any law of any kind.
Cops less than anybody.

And then, I’m off again, going down
in the maelstrom of Reality Street. Everybody turns
at this place into 54th Street from Eighth Avenue.
Why? Are they going to the Municipal Parking Lot on the right?
Or to the unemployment office for waiters and dishwashers
on the left? (a mysterious place full of crises
and explosions). And there’s Bryant Hotel.
Alan Hovhaness lived there briefly last year.
I used to see his tall, hesitant, disjointed walk
mooning along thinking of distant extreme musical space.
“Hello Alan!,” I’d yell, he’d turn and look as though
he’d never seen me before or anything before
and grin shyly. “Hello,” he’d say.
Did he really know what was talking to him?
And now he’s living in Seattle. That’s reality.

Crossing Broadway is a sort of adventure.
This invincible instantaneous daredevil in me
is quite boiled down into a sort of egg-cup
of security and dutifulness,
but Broadway now, is something else, is always being excavated.
Don’t you suppose the Mafia is holding a secret convention
down one of the holes, or digging a mysterious subway to Sicily?
They pave it again with asphalt and sand
as soft as chewing gum.
My bicycle rises up and rolls down
through hole after hole like waves,
honking bravely at all the pedestrians.
They look offended. Impudent motorless wheels!
They defer to cars, they respect trucks.
They’ve been converted to a religion of pure weight!

I skid to a stop at Seventh, and hurry across
through the taxi line for the airport trade
from the Hotel Americana. I park outside the crazy poster store.

Inside, I’m surrounded by Raquel Welch’s breasts,
girls with steak quarterings on their rumps,
blonde nudes climbing cliffs, Nixon taking a dump,
calendars of Kamasutra positions, one per month,
four foot long inspirational zen poems on purple banners,
red fire-lighters a foot long.
I buy my paper, I fold it neatly behind my seat.
The clerk asks me about my foot. That’s how
I’m fated to be remembered. The paper customer who broke his foot.
I walk the wheels to the corner
by half a dozen kegs of Schaefer beer booming down
in the belly of the cellar of a bar.
I cast off past the Half Note and Jimmy Ryan’s
to the Hilton, with its bus loads of Japanese tourists
craning their necks, casting about
at a crazily tilted perspective with sore ears
and sleep-confused eyes.
In these full, hurrying streets, what a difference!
Everyone is spruce, sure, full of purpose,
upholstered with money and sex in green,
knowing how to enjoy a breeze and walk hearty.
The flagpoles on the ABC, CBS and Burlington Buildings,
the Warwick Hotel, flap with taut-natured snap.
This too is reality—or is it adventure?
I’m sailing in rash seas.
The light changes, four cabs crash through the red,
but we’re wise to them—we wait,
and avoiding the dip in the street by the Athletic Club,
I nod at the doormen of the Dorset,
and now at the top of the rise, it’s home-free,
I sail past the back garden and the trees
of the Modern Art Museum, avoid the driver-training car
of the Rhodes School, look up the skirts
of the girls with their books and their backs to the walk,
neatly slip past the back corner of a growling truck,
and up to the curb at the service drive.
There’s a no-parking sign across the street
from the University Club. Really reality!

I put down my parking stand with a clang,
unlock the chain, unscrew the front half of my French bike,
it’s beginning to rust from too much rain,
and I lay the front half beside the back,
chaining the two with a $22.50 hardened steel five pound chain.
This is reality too. Adventure with prudence.
Standing here, I think, I’ve made it once again
without re-breaking my foot.
—Look how they’re watching me-. You actor!
A bicycle in two pieces! Such elan!
I stalk and limp to what will happen today.
Oh Fifth Avenue!

© 1991, Andrew Glaze, from his book Reality Street.

In 1974, “Reality Street” was the longest poem ever published by The Atlantic.
(Three years later The New Yorker published the companion poem “Fantasy Street” ; the longest poem they had ever published in their magazine.)

In an interview my father explained they were inspired by 17th century poet John Milton.  “I was trying to figure out how Milton would tackle “L’allegro” and “Il Pensero” if he were doing it in the second half of the twentieth century”.  “Reality Street” was written before “Fantasy Street” and my father referred to them as “Two Odes”.

I don’t remember exactly when my father first decided to bike to and from work, but I know it involved several generations of bicycles.  For a while he worked on his poetry and plays early in the morning, before work.  Eventually he decided lunchtime was a better choice, when the weather cooperated.  Since 54th Street headed East to his office at 5th Avenue and 53rd Street led back to our to our apartment building on 9th Avenue, a bicycle was the obvious solution.

In the ‘70’s, creatively designed bikes for city dwellers became available.  They had smaller wheels, and you could easily take them apart for storage.  I remember a day when he chained the two main pieces of his bike downstairs to a lamp post and thieves stole the seat. After that he brought the seat up to his office.  There were other times when he brought various parts of his bikes upstairs as well.

Alan Hovhaness was a highly respected orchestral composer. They were acquainted, because Alan’s wife was from Birmingham. In the early 70’s they collaborated on a small musical that Joseph Papp wanted to produce.  It never happened, because Papp insisted on a small orchestra, and Hovhaness insisted on two pianos.

The entire poem is a poetic documentary of life in mid-town Manhattan in the early 1970’s. Eighth Avenue no longer has a prostitute on every corner, each wearing a more elaborate wig than the next. There is no longer a bus barn depot across the street from where we lived.  The bodega (grocery store) on one side of our building has been gone for decades, although the ghosts of the local drunks still linger.  The Brittany Restaurant on the other side of our building had excellent French food until a fire put them out of business.  Schaefer beer was bought out by Stroh’s and then Pabst.  Even the Rhodes Preparatory School for girls no longer exists.  “Up skirt views” were probably a daily event at the time, as the entrance was up a flight of steps and mini skirts were the trend.  I’m not sure when the Hotel Americana disappeared.  And yet, as with all major cities, despite constantly evolving, the flavor of New York City always stays the same.

—-E. Glaze

1975 smaller size file
Andrew Glaze, with bicycles, in the living room of his apartment at 9th Avenue and 53rd Street.  His desk, typewriter, and working area is immediately behind him.  The rest of the living room is behind the photographer.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Night Walk To A Country Theater

Drop from the train’s bottom step onto the grit,
turn out of the wind, ravel the hood of the parka tight.
It’s gristly clear, the black night fizzes with frost,
Venus and Jupiter sit near the moon like steps.
There’s an old barge canal and water locks;
You cross on the steel plates, rubber soles clanging.
First, a shallow skitter over frozen mud.
Then a steady booming of timed trudge
over the long bridge across the Connecticut,
frozen about the abutment islands.
They extend white claws.
Smoke steams from a chimney like a solid cloud.
Nobody knows you in any of the passing cars,
no obligation keeps you from climbing the rail,
dropping in the coiled swirls of the water below.
Your breath comes fast, your spirit jumps
high above the network of girders.
On the far side, a strip bar, evilly lighted, waits,
and long sidewalks of the tight-closed houses of strangers,
growling dogs, a rustle of distant throughway,
long lurching alone.
Then, through the darkness, rises up at last–
like a reward, as though you knew
this was how it should have been arranged–
warmth, singing, a cavern of people.
Your feet will have lost all feeling.
But the joy will come flying.
It works every time.

© 1982, Andrew Glaze by permission of The New Yorker.
From the 1991 book Reality Street.


Originally published in The New Yorker in January of 1982, my father began writing this poem in 1978. He was inspired by a train ride to Connecticut, and the short walk he made to a theater in Stamford. He was about to see my stepmom perform in the out-of-town “try-outs” of the musical “Ballroom”. It was the last chance for the producers to tweak the production before previewing and opening the show on Broadway, and it was an exciting time for our family.

“Ballroom” came about when the producers and directors of “A Chorus Line” decided to see if they could strike gold twice. Inspired by a successful 1975 TV movie titled, “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom”, the story was about a widow who finds a brand new life, friends, and a lover, when she takes up ballroom dancing.

At our apartment, the phone rang one day to say that Director and Choreographer Michael Bennett needed retired older dancers who were once part of the Broadway circuit. My stepmother had been in the original cast of Camelot in the 1960’s, as well as other shows, and the grapevine had tracked her down. The dancers also included Liz Sheridan, who eventually became Jerry Seinfeld’s mother on the TV show “Seinfeld”.

As with “A Chorus Line”, the participants in “Ballroom” were part of the creative process of the production, and their contracts offered a percentage of all future profits. The original cast members of “A Chorus Line” are still receiving residuals to this very day and the participants of “Ballroom” hoped for a similar fate.

My impression was that no expense was spared. I remember my stepmom “oohing” over the fact that their shoes were all created by the elite, Paris born, shoe designer Maud Frizon. They were absolutely gorgeous, and had to be specially designed and reinforced for ballroom dancing, but must have cost a small fortune.

On the Premier night, all the stops were pulled out and a huge post performance party was held at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of The World Trade Center’s North Tower. The restaurant was only two years old at that point, and considered the very height of glamour. Family members were also invited to the party, which is how I ended up there. Traditionally, post-premier night parties go on until the early morning newspaper reviews come out. I think I ended up lying across a few chairs to take a nap.

The reviews were not unanimous in praise and, despite a score and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the song “Fifty Percent” was the only one that went on to post Broadway fame and fortune. Nominated for 8 Tony Awards, and 7 Drama Desk Awards, “Best Choreography” was the winner for both. 

But the main problem was the basic plot line. It featured an older cast, and a widow who finds a lover she’s happy with, but he’s a Catholic trapped in a loveless marriage. After an emotional struggle she decides to accept the situation. In the final scene she is voted “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom” and dances with her lover at her side, singing, “I wish you a waltz” along with the entire ensemble. 

Ticket sales struggled, probably because the subject matter mainly appealed to an older generation, a fan base of widows who were greatly inspired, and ballroom dancers.  I was in my 20’s and could see it was too realistic for dewy eyed young adults.  It also wasn’t something you’d take your kids to see for a family outing. The production ran for 116 performances on Broadway, before bringing down the final curtain.

Michael Bennett’s next endeavor struck gold in 1981. It was the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”.

indexAdriana Keathley (Glaze) wearing very expensive Maud Frizon shoes, and a Theoni Aldredge costume, with Victor Griffin. 1978 photo property of Ballroom Production.

—E. Glaze

Shipwrecked upon a Seacoast in Bohemia

— Hooper and Donna

 He spoke orations like a stream full of bumping logs,
sported legal erudition like a Blackstone larynx,
brave head wrapped like a turban in precedential fog.

Called Hooper, he was a tall, luminous paragon of the law
whose humor hovered over a quiver-full of jokes.
like a lion advancing a congratulatory paw.

He cheerfully scattered about himself as though from the roof
vast pronouncements like three-winged eagles,
absentmindedly shot them down with a hyperextended spoof.

Till the day came he met Donna, whose exciting battle of words
had been played out up north
in the home of the Broadway Theatre Birds.

Now she came flopping home like kingdom come
to settle for what was at hand
with ample illusion left to strike us dumb.

Unfailingly she was, as ever, theatrical, airy,
playing life off the tips of disdainful fingers.
Squirt, squirt, distributing the goodies, like a perspicacious fairy,

dropping one over there, two over here, ploop! ploop!
“So be it! If you don’t like it, dearie,
send an Email to my chicken soup!”

She was constructed like the bay bridge, all distances and loops,
in the clothes she made herself freehand, shaping the cloth
in romantic, visionary, scissor swoops.

Her full-length opera cloak,
included the hunt, the hunters, a dozen dogs, the deer,
and coming from behind, athwart the smoke,

a trumpeter signaling their approach
by honking the hours to his horse
and welcoming them to an inn with an approaching coach.

She’d happily turn and show you the panorama.
As she perceived it, life was the fluttery
festive commedia of a swiftly revolving diorama.

Their meeting—(it did come)—was as though Blackbeard the Pirate,
pistoleros smoking, climbed aboard
some gold-laden galleon with his shrieking parrot.

Such explosions! They huffed, joked, laughed, circled, sang,
challenged one the other, like craziness,
each clanging the other as though the Liberty Bell had rung.

Who was the audience, who were the performers?
At length, spent, like blown-out Etnas and Krakatoas,
they fell asleep in separate terra firmas.

If Bonaparte had entered the room with Pitt the Younger, no doubt
they’d have quickly learned the rule. One or both must depart.
Two grand styles cancel each other out.

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore

 I have to confess that I never saw this poem until January of 2015. As soon as I read it I thought, “Wow, I remember that party!”  It was either in the late 1960’s, or very early ‘70’s, and I had no idea my father had written a poem about it.

I’d love to tell you that I remember the real names of the people the poem is based on, but that information has long since left the building. “Hooper” had been to our home at least once before, was an interesting and entertaining man, loved to be in the spotlight, and knew how to hold his audience.

So I’m sure he was quite nonplussed by “Donna”, whose real name also escapes me.  I think our party may have been the first time I met her. She sat in a chair in the living room and held court.  And no, she wasn’t actually wearing a cloak with hunting dogs on it.

Between the pair of them, Donna won the living room territory. I remember initial moments when Hooper tried to interrupt Donna in her solo monologue, or start a dialog, but she artfully managed to evade him and disarm every attempt. Clearly this was not her first rodeo. Her theater background gave her an advantage he did not have, and it was like watching a fencing pro parry and slide her opponents sword to the ground.

In the end she completed her reign seated in the living room, and he retreated to the opposite end of the apartment to hold sway in the kitchen. In any case, “Hooper” was the very last guest to leave that night.  I suppose that once “Donna” was gone he had the entire audience to himself once again and wished to linger in that glory. In any case, I still have a vision of my father saying “Goodbye, thanks for coming!” and then gently closing the door behind him.  In relief, we all leaned back against the nearest wall, looked at each other, burst out laughing, and agreed that it had been one of the most exhausting parties we’d ever hosted as a family.  It truly had been a battle of mega personalities.

Despite being shy, my father always loved parties, and hosted many of them in Manhattan. The collection of guests was varied, always interesting, and reflected my father’s circle of friends and supporters.  At age 94, when he’d become hard of hearing, his memory was beginning to fail, and it was often difficult to know if he was sleeping in his armchair or simply closing his eyes, I remember telling him “Catherine, your niece, and her husband are joining us later to celebrate your birthday”. He immediately looked up, as excited as an 8 year old, and exclaimed, “A Party!?”

P.S.  In the 1960’s and ’70’s, the term “Bohemian” referred to a Hippy/Gypsy approach to life and dress codes. It was the same when Puccini wrote his opera “La Boheme” about a group of starving artists in Paris. Nowadays we refer to “The BoHo look” in fashion, and it refers to the bohemian hippy styles of the ’60’s and 70’s. Although my father wore a bow tie to work everyday, we definitely lived a life that was more bohemian than most.  Meanwhile, People involved in the theater, as “Donna” was, are still referred to as “Gypsies” in that world, because their lives are constantly changing as they move from one show to another or go on National or Regional tours. My father was referring to the trendy use of the word “Bohemia” rather than a geographic location. And, don’t forget that Manhattan is an island surrounded by oceans from the river. Large portions of the west side of the island, along the Hudson River, are made up of boat piers for ocean liners, shipping vessels, and naval frigates . So if you think in terms of Manhattan being a bohemian island of creative and artistic people, you could actually be “shipwrecked” along the coast of “bohemia”.

Photo by Adriana Glaze. Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

A photo of one of our typical parties:
Don Nelson is in the foreground. He was a theater critic for the New York Times and his wife Ricki Fulmer wrote for magazines like Cosmopolitan.  Poet and writer Norman Rosten was in attendance off screen and his daughter Patty is standing facing the camera. UN diplomat Cesar Ortiz-Tinoco is on the right in the background, wearing glasses. He was the husband of poet, cookbook writer, and Gourmet Magazine contributor, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. She was also in attendance somewhere off screen.

—E. Glaze

You And I Make A Movie

It’s the last cornball western,
and there you are,
the only lady flute-player, I guess, in 300 miles,
sitting alone like a cup of herbal tea,
like an everyday empress in exile,
reigning at one edge of the cardboard, sagebrush, town.

Around the corner
sprawl the tinkling cafes and bars.
You make them seem provincial and unseasoned.
Their music blows in your window,
it piles up on your floor like dead flies.

It is time for me to arrive,
I ride into town, I plunge, I man-stride,
the unbroken spirit of Golconda!
Is every inhabitant out in the street?
Everyone glued to his window?
I hang like a cigarette held at the side of my mouth.
My yippee skids in the air like a red fiesta.

I throw up my Stetson,
it catches on a passing kite.
I shoot my pistol at the klieg-light sun,
my silver spurs rattle like last week’s wages.

We meet
On a wooden sidewalk like tired old scenarios
laid down end to end.
You pretend to be shy,
I pretend I’d rather be
bulldogging cows in the mountains.
Something has happened.
— marked by an exclamation point in the treatment
scrawled on the edge of the afterglow.

The sun staggers over the hill of the studio fly-loft,
the moon bends down and falls,
doubled like a shot.

The bonfire flying flakes of coal
pop high and vanish.

Whicker-whicker – you fold and unfold my sleep
like a well-played hand of five-card stud.

© Andrew Glaze, 1981, from I Am The Jefferson County Courthouse

My father wrote this poem for my stepmom Adriana Keathley Glaze.

The first time I met Adriana was sometime around Christmas. I had just turned 11, my mother had asked for a divorce a few months earlier, my father was attempting to date again, and it wasn’t going particularly well. I remember one disastrous day when he invited a female work colleague to join us at Brighton Beach for the afternoon, I was enjoying playing in the surf, and in a split second my brother managed to get completely lost while heading back to our beach blanket. The rest of the afternoon quickly turned stressful as we fanned out to look for him among the multitudes of beach goers. Eventually my father came across him, on the Boardwalk of all places, accompanied by a kindly older lady who was trying to help him find us.

Later that year, in an effort to keep busy and productive, he decided to audit an acting course as an educational exercise to improve his play writing skills. Early on in the sessions he told me there was a woman in the class who had caught his attention.  The woman he’d noticed and was trying to get to know was Adriana. She also happened to be a ballet dancer, like myself, and was in the original cast of Camelot, the Broadway musical.

Eventually he invited her over to our apartment for a visit. It was around Christmas. At the time my brother Peter was living with our mother, and visiting us on weekends. My main memory of that first meeting is that Peter was so oblivious to everything else except his Christmas gifts that he knocked our Christmas tree over 3 times. For some reason my father recorded this entire event on audio tape. For years afterwards he enjoyed replaying the tape, which essentially consisted of repeated crashes in the background and me screaming “PETER!!!!!” every time our tree fell over. Clearly he found it very funny. 

Amazingly enough, Adriana decided to stick it out with us. Once she and my father began dating in earnest, we would often meet her at the stage door of the Majestic Theatre at the end of a performance. Richard Burton had already left the cast of Camelot for Hollywood and Elizabeth Taylor, but Julie Andrews didn’t know about Mary Poppins yet, Robert Goulet wasn’t doing Vegas or TV yet, and Roddy McDowell was still playing the character of Mordred.

In 1962 they married, and my father and I moved out of our apartment in Greenwich Village to merge households with Adriana at 9th Avenue and 53rd Street, around the corner from her own original apartment. By the time my brother turned 6 he moved in with us as well.  This was because our mother was in Europe touring with a theater troupe, and it was time for him to start school.

Adriana continued to dance ballet for many years, and in 1987 she was in the original cast of the Michael Bennett Broadway musical Ballroom. Eventually, she switched over to acting, and stayed with that for many years. Supportive of my father until his dying day, he dedicated at least two of his poetry books to her using her nickname “Cusi”.

Adriana Keathley Glaze in the wings of the Majestic Theater, circa 1960, during the run of Camelot. Photo by Dawn Mitchell.

— E. Glaze

A Letter To David Matzke

The beautiful is always bizarre–-Baudelaire

I tell you, David,
poetry ought to be shocking,
and poets ought to be dangerous people.
In whatever country, honest feeling is always
shocking and dangerous.
Anyone true to the heart can simply enough and at
any time be both.

But for their contempt we’ve ourselves to blame.
We’ve been cowardly.
We’ve made the stuff so cheap
begging their love
that poets are poor people
from wearing out the money of never was
passing it back and forth among themselves.

Rub the truth in their faces!
What is the point of being a poet, anyway,
if you can’t be a kind of prophet?

Hold their nose to the stink,
Say “look, this is it!
We are here by ourselves,”
say “there’s no kind uncle,
you will have to furnish the kindnesses out of your
own pocket.
If you see that, nothing can hurt you!
Stop kissing essences. Learn to respect
your essential rumpy importance.
And for God’s sake, don’t mistake my words for food,
when they’re nothing but spoons.”

Say with whatever gestures are customarily indecent
and the wildest possible musical accompaniment
“The sky will not move
for buckets of moonlight and French quotations.”
While they’re watching you chant like a demon priest,
kick away all those roses covering the cesspool.

How else make clear
that if there’s a reason
we bawl these songs to ourselves
as we push this stone to nowhere
for no apparent reason,
the reason is too simple to be believed–
like the snake swallowing his tail.

That music is useless,
That music is to eat and to make love and to make music,
one’s own music.
That music is music.
Why, this alone, if they could understand it,
would overturn all their systems.

Shout something simple and sensible.
For instance, that nothing done in boredom
is a human accomplishment.
They’ll think you’re talking about leisure
or the family cookout. Make it clear you’re not.
Don’t worry. If you brandish it seriously or humorously
and go ahead and shout it in the street,
they’ll only mistake you for an arsonist or a communist.
And smelling out the truth with their fear,
roll you in the garbage to comfort their taught lies.
You have to understand them.
They’ve only this one poor fence against accepting the nature
of themselves
and they truly fear it.
They’ll never suspect you’re a poet.
They cannot allow you a worthwhile reason
to deserve to be punished.
So they won’t punish you for the right reason.

When you speak of love,
they’ll try to pretend you mean Cleopatra
or some other anal-vaginal queen.
And only two or three will dare recognize
your corrosive subversity.
Make sure they have to make fools of themselves
to ignore the difference.

Are you afraid?
If you’re not, there’s something wrong with you!
To tell them what they care for most
is as relevant to their souls
as the sugar level of the urine of pregnant beetles?
But you ought to be more afraid of dying without
having tried!
What is important except to be what you are?
Make them call out the cops if possible.
Poetry had better be shocking or shut up.
What earthly good to say
that Spring will be around again next year ?

© by Andrew Glaze, 1963, from Damned Ugly Children.


The first time I met David Matzke he was called “Jeff Crawford”, had a wife named Connie, a young son, and I was 7 years old.  In 2006, my mother reminded me that Jeff and Connie originally came into our lives through her.

In 1957, our first true apartment in Manhattan was the ground floor rear garden flat of a brownstone on 102nd Street. We were half a block from Riverside Drive. I had the only bedroom as well as direct access to the backyard. A friendly artistic black couple named Oscar and Zizi lived directly above us. After years of trying to treat blacks in the South as equals, only to find that the blacks were terrified to accept the invitation for fear of outside retribution, my parents were ecstatic to be able to freely strike up a friendship.

On weekdays, my father took the subway to work at British Tourist Authority after dropping me off at school in Greenwich Village, and my mother was the Superintendent of our building. In exchange for using the repair and maintenance skills she’d learned while she and my father renovated our house in Birmingham, we had free rent. Very early in their marriage my mother said she’d complained “You get to do all the fun stuff”, because cooking, cleaning, and laundry never held much interest for her. He listened, and they agreed to split the jobs between them. Years later, she taught me how to dry wall and helped me renovate parts of my home. Most memorably, in 1989, when she decided I needed to learn how to change the oil of my car, she placed a huge piece of cardboard on the ground under the engine, gracefully slid on her back to get to the oil tank, and began to demonstrate. All while wearing a pale pink pencil skirt suit, stockings, and high heels. My father became the person who dragged me off to buy good hairbrushes, to the dermatologist for my skin, and made sure I was brushing my teeth regularly. But I digress…

Every evening, after my father came home, my mother would head off to her second job as a chorus girl. She was performing in an off-Broadway comedy spoof called, “Best of Burlesque”. TV comedian Tom Poston was the headliner, and retired burlesque stripper Sherry Britton was the narrator. My mother was one of “Nelle’s Belles” and with great delight the producers gave her the stage name “Sugar Glaze”. “Lilly White” was another cast member. Nelle Fisher, the only dancer on the Captain Kangaroo TV Show, was the choreographer. For years, Nel taught movement/dance lessons in the studio building attached to Carnegie Hall. I remember sitting and watching my mother in one of her group classes during this time. After that, whenever the Dancing Grandfather Clock appeared on Captain Kangaroo, I knew it was Nelle Fisher.

Every weekend my mother would bring her evening job costume home to hand wash and hang it up to dry. It was a sort of flesh colored leotard with a poufy tutu ruffle around the hips and butt, a bra sewn inside, many sequins, and white elastic shoulder straps that had been dyed with facial foundation makeup to make them blend in with skin tones. I was fascinated.

There is a 2008 New York Times obituary for Sherry Britton that states, “Ms. Britton was the onstage narrator of “Best of Burlesque”, a two-hour show at the Carnegie Hall Playhouse, which also starred an eye-rolling Tom Poston as the top banana, or star comedian. With poker-faced chorus girls singing off-key and rhythmically chewing gum, the show spoofed what was by then a lost art form.”

Yes, I can proudly state that my mother was one of those poker faced, rhythmically gum chewing, off key singing and dancing girls. In 2004, when she came across an out of print encyclopedia of Broadway and Off-Broadways Shows, she showed it to me, gleefully pointed out the name “Sugar Glaze” in the list of performers, and burst out laughing.

It was during the run of “Best of Burlesque” that Jeff Crawford’s wife, Connie, became friends with my mother. Connie was one of the wardrobe ladies. When we moved to Greenwich Village a year later, my father met Connie and her husband Jeff. They were both contemporary art painters. Interestingly, my mother later said she’d always felt that Connie was the more talented of the two. However, she never saw any of Jeff’s later work. Somehow my father and Jeff struck up a friendship.

In the ensuing years, my parents divorced, my father remarried, and we moved to 9th Avenue and 53rd Street on the West Side of Manhattan. We were near the Broadway Theater District and Lincoln Center. Then one day my father came home from work and told me he’d bumped into Jeff …except that Jeff was now “David Matzke”. It seemed that he’d used the name Jeff Crawford to avoid jail, but eventually had been tracked down and sent to serve a prison term in upstate New York. Now he was out, back in Manhattan, back with Connie, had a second son, and they lived around the corner from us. At some point, I remember my father explaining that David had become addicted to codeine cough syrup, and had broken into a home, or possibly multiple homes, to search the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Since I was an art major at the High School of Music & Art, in an effort to help them financially my father asked Connie to give me oil painting lessons for a while and David built me a wooden easel. The close proximity brought David to our house regularly. At times he’d visit for long therapeutic talks with my father, and I’d find them ensconced in our living room. On other days he’d bring paintings. Our 9th Avenue and 53rd Street apartment was what is described as a “railroad flat”. This is because it was the length of the entire building and you had to walk through every single room to get to the very front end or the very back end, just like you do on a train. As a result, we had loads of blank wall space, which David did not. And so for the entire duration of the 1960’s our apartment became an ever changing art gallery of David’s paintings. He’d hang them to dry and then come to replace them with new ones. To this day, the smell of oil paint and linseed oil immediately takes me back to 803 9th Avenue, at 53rd Street. It was a win-win situation. We had constantly changing art and he had a safe showplace.

Then one day David screwed up and everything fell apart.
It all started because my father bumped into Zizi, our artistic black female friend from our days living on 102nd Street. It turned out that she’d also moved into our neighborhood! So he invited her over, and David stopped by while she was visiting and was introduced. I remember arriving home from school that day and greeting them both. The problem was that Zizi and David continued the acquaintanceship and ended up having an affair. When his wife Connie found out she kicked David out. It’s hard to remember all the details now, but I’m pretty sure I remember a half-hearted suicide attempt – it may or may not have been Connie, something about a child falling off a fire escape from a lower floor, and an eviction notice, but that wasn’t even the full extent of it. What I do remember is relating a lengthy dramatic saga to my best friend at school and closing with, “If anybody had brought a movie script like this to a Hollywood producer, they’d have said it’s too unrealistic.”

So David left the city, and returned to his birth state of California. It proved to be an artistic rebirth for him. He eventually came back to Manhattan producing paintings in a new style with vibrant colors; a result of mixing his own paint and painting in the California sun. We still have one of his paintings from this period. It’s called “Fire Birds”. My personal favorite was a painting with blue flowers that an acquaintance of my father’s purchased.

I’ve always remembered something my father once related to me. He said that David had vivid memories of being a baby, and young child, who was obsessed with painting his crib mattress and walls. It was a constant issue and struggle with his parents, because, lacking any other medium to use, the only “paints” available were his own feces. Clearly, David was born to be an artist from day one. It was in every fiber of his being.

Somehow around this time, David met his next wife, Lisa, whom we all liked very much. Young, but with an old soul, she was a lovely person. They lived in Brooklyn Heights at the time and stayed in touch with us. I remember sitting on the fire escape just outside their kitchen window one evening and enjoying chatting with her brother when he visited from their hometown of Charleston, SC.

Unfortunately and tragically, when David & Lisa’s first child was born, he had cancer at birth and died not long afterwards. The shock sent them both into a spiral of depression, they parted for a period of time, and Lisa returned to Charleston. After awhile, David joined her there and they eventually had two daughters.  David moved to New Orleans when they agreed to separate at a later point, but they reunited again in 1977 and had a son while living in Louisiana. 

In 1981 David died in a mysterious fashion.  His family tells me that he went off on a motorcycle ride to cool off after a heated argument with Lisa, and never returned.  It was two years before they discovered what had happened to him.  in 1983, the police found his remains in a wooded area on the other side of a nearby lake and used dental records and his wallet to identify him.  Piecing the evidence together they concluded that his high blood pressure must have caused some sort of heart issue, he didn’t have his medication with him, and he died after dragging himself off the road.  His daughter tells me that Lisa always felt in her heart that he must have died, and felt certain that he would never have willingly abandoned them.  In 1983 Lisa called my father and stepmom to tell them the news.  


The poem proved to be a problem child, not unlike the title subject.

In 1964, if anybody had predicted the future and warned my mild mannered, non-confrontational, kind, witty, intellectual, and bow tie wearing father, that this one single poem would create a firestorm of problems for him that would linger for years afterwards, I believe he might have reconsidered publishing it at all, much less in his very first book. Although he did later say it was one of the best poems in the book, in his opinion. The original version was actually titled, “To Jeff Crawford” and first appeared in a small Alabama published poetry booklet titled The Token.

The poem immediately attracted reviewer’s attention, and they either hailed or hated it. William Packard, a publisher and a professor at New York University, loved it so much he used it as an example in his teaching textbook The Poet’s Dictionary: a handbook of prosody and poetic devices.

On the “Hater” side, fifteen years later in 1979, Harvey Curtis Webster still held a grudge when he reviewed The Trash Dragon of Shensi for Poetry Magazine. My father referred to this in 1985 during an interview with Steven Ford Brown.

“Brown: You once remarked that a poem from that volume, “A Letter To David Matzke” was quite misunderstood by most people. And that it still got you into trouble?

Glaze: “A Letter To David Matzke” was like a red flag to a bull to a lot of literary types, and to a lot of the literary movement, apparently because of its naïve calls for “honesty”. In that wing of poetry which believes most strongly in artifice, craft, technique, indirect allusion, tradition and various theories of semi-mystical inspiration or hermetic art, it was regarded as a rude and sophomoric Jeremiad. As recently as four years ago, I got a review in Poetry which totally ignored the book ostensibly under consideration (Trash Dragon) and made a violent attack on this poem. All of which is pathetic, since I’d written the piece as an aesthetic guide for no one except myself. I never even had the intention of stepping on anyone’s toes. The piece has been considered an apolgia for “beat” poetry, “confessional” work, overtly sexual content, and heaven knows what else. Things which did not interest me at all.  Most readers who objected, got angry so quickly they didn’t read much past “Poetry had better shock or shut up”.  Sense went out the window. Some reviewer mocked poetry with such pretensions which lacked incest, homosexuality or rape to keep it honest. It makes one wonder what poetry is to a lot of people. Something pretty petty, which deserves whatever death it chooses for itself.”

My father later revealed the full extent of his subsequent ostracism, and how he came to understand the source, in an email. The recipient was poet and writer Steven Conkle, a friend and fan.

“Dear Steve:

Now that’s what I would call thoughtful. EPOS! I don’t know when they went out of business, but it must have been decades. And I was relieved to find that I could still read the poems without wincing. (Referring to poems of his in the EPOS anthology.) Let me see. That was after my first book, and just before Tony Rudolf in London broke his own rule and printed something that wasn’t a translation.” (Referring to his poetry booklet “A Masque of Surgery”.)

“I was getting discouraged about ever getting a second book despite 30 or 40 great reviews.

I never discovered why till I went to a lecture in the village (NYC), and Richard Howard was introducing whoever it was. At the intermission he came up to me, which puzzled me, because I’d never met him. He said, “Sir, when I chair an event like this I always pick an intelligent face in the audience to talk to. In this case it was you. Do you mind my asking who you are?”

I replied “My name is Andrew Glaze”. His face flooded with astonishment, “You’re Andrew Glaze!” he said, then with a kind of horror “YOU’RE ANDREW GLAZE“! He backed away and avoided being anywhere near after that!

That was my introduction to how the poetic establishment operates underground and covertly to try to force people to write as they wish.”
(He then went on to mention additional names as part of a tightly knit “clique”.)

Lacking acceptance into the poetry equivalent of “The old boys club”, he determinedly forged ahead and managed to find his own path to publishers, magazines, and fans to share his poetry with.

Currently, what amazes me is the fact that, despite the obstacles he overcame to get his work published, and a very long bibliography of known published work, I still continue to discover new entries to add to it! Clearly, given a choice between writing and record keeping, my father always picked the former. In a poetic sense, it appears that I’ll be spending time with my father for many years to come as I search across the web and his papers for signs of further publications. Luckily, I don’t mind; along with Poet Laureates, I have librarian DNA in me. I tend to enjoy the challenge of the search.
Fire Birds adjusted
“Firebirds” by David Matzke (as seen from below). Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

1975 David Matzke's paintings
One of David’s paintings is on the wall to the right. Others are on the left and down the hallway beyond. The photo makes the painting look dark, but in reality it was not. I always thought of it as “The Chair”.  Photo property of The Andrew Glaze Estate.

The same chair painting is in the photo of me in 1966.

Two more of David’s paintings are on the walls in the photos below.

david matzke
David Matzke 1929 – 1983

Original Cast Album cover, “Best of Burlesque”, 1958.

Dot circa 1958
Dorothy Elliott (Glaze) Shari. These professional theatrical “Head Shots” were made around the time of “Best of Burlesque”.

— E. Glaze


As I walk mornings down Bleecker Street,

I meet ten saints with filthy demands.

The tenements shout with holiness,

God reels by or sleeps on the curb,

at home everywhere in the wrecks and bars,

in the stale tobacco and business,

and everything that’s wild and absurd,

like madness with madness and holding hands.

I had rather ten faces than ten birds,

I don’t sense deliverance in a tree.

There is no impossible in lakes,

there is more miracle in a crowd

than in a Rocky Mountain or me.

There is more holiness in an eye

than in a scroll of holy words.

God’s here, thank God, in the market place!

Viva the Signor of warts and turds!


© by Andrew Glaze, 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore.


In 2008, Pulitzer prize winning poet Galway Kinnell sent my father a letter stating that he loved this poem, and would always remember the final line.  They’d both taught at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference within a year of each other, and would eventually appear on the A and B sides of a recording created by the wife of composer Alan Hovhaness. Betty Hovhaness was also from Birmingham and owned a record company called Poseidon Records.  She’d created it primarily to promote her husband’s work, but decided to record my father reading poetry and asked him who he would suggest for the flip side. He recommended Galway Kinnell, and she agreed.  

Many years later, when Kinnell died in October of 2014, my father kept a clipping of his New York Times obituary on the table beside his living room chair and grieved for several days afterwards.  Besides the fact that he admired his work, I believe it’s because he was so proud of the fact that Kinnell really liked his poem.

The poem “Alleluia” was originally titled “As I walk mornings down Bleecker Street”, and it began to develop in the late 1950’s when we moved to Greenwich Village at 173 Bleecker Street, on the corner of Sullivan.  “The Village” was vibrantly alive with creative arts in those days, but still had regular neighborhood stores. There was a laundromat at the bottom of our building, and a drugstore across the street. 

It wasn’t until 1993 that I discovered my father’s brother in-law fondly referred to him as “The first beatnik of Alabama”.  I have to admit, it was a surprisingly accurate description. Despite going off to work every day in a suit and bow tie, the mild mannered conventional exterior of my father hid an interior that longed for creative inspiration and supportive peers with similar goals.  That first Christmas my father decided he wanted a guitar, my mother asked for bongo drums, and I was presented with a tambourine so I wouldn’t feel left out although I had absolutely no clue what to do with it.  My mother also asked for oil paints and brushes. One day I came home from school and discovered she’d used them to create a swirly free form painting directly on a wall in our living room. As I’d been raised to NOT draw or paint on the walls, I remember being somewhat stunned.  Clearly my parents were adapting to Greenwich Village artistic life a lot faster than I was.  During this same time period, a block away from us at the Village Gate, Peter, Paul and Mary were performing on a regular basis, and nearby, at Washington Square Park, a pair of elderly mandolin players would entertain the strolling public pretty much every evening.  By 1960, half a block away, the musical “The Fantasticks” would launch into the first of what would eventually become a 42 year run at the Sullivan Street Playhouse.  I was attending the first and oldest progressive private school in Manhattan, on 12th street, and one of my classmates was the sole child of the late James Agee.  In 1957, my schools mandatory dress code was denim jeans and tee shirts, and boys and girls did everything equally. It was my mother who pushed for this form of education.  Oddly enough when I graduated and became a student at the High School of Music & Art, I went through a reverse rebellion and avoided jeans and slacks for four years.

Despite the fact that we lived in a bathtub in kitchen apartment, with a shared toilet in the hallway, life was pretty good, and certainly very interesting.  One afternoon my father came home and told me that he’d spent some time writing at Café Figaro.  It was one of no less than four cafes at the cross roads of Bleecker and MacDougal streets. Somehow he’d learned that it was a hub for writers and poets. He explained that the custom was to sit at a table while you worked on a written piece. When you felt you’d made progress you would simply stand up unannounced, read your work aloud, and sit back down again. I have no idea if anybody made comments, or “snaps”, but I’m fairly certain Alan Ginsburg was part of the scene at the time although my father never cared much for his poetry.

“Alleluia” is my father’s love letter to Greenwich Village and Manhattan, warts and all.  Neither of my parents ever regretted leaving Alabama for Manhattan. My mother said she felt at home the moment our Greyhound bus first came across the George Washington Bridge, and NYC provided my father with the supportive poetry world that Birmingham lacked at the time. My father returned to Alabama 44 years later, and found a vastly improved poetry scene in Birmingham, but both of my parents continued to love Manhattan until the day they died. 

—E. Glaze
Galway Kinnel blurred address

“Thanks for the review that your friend managed to get to me. Thank you even more for your poem “Alleluia” which I found very moving from first line all the way to the last line. I will remember your closing line: “Viva the signor of warts and turds!”  I hope you won’t let being eighty-eight stand in your way for more years of fruitful work. If I am ever in Alabama, I will look you up, provided you agree to do the same to me if you are ever in Vermont.”
Copyright of the Galway Kinnell Estate, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

12039700_10209699125823520_4170967706283998131_nCopyright of Poseidon Records.

Dot's wall painting
The wall painting my mother did at our apartment on Bleecker Street.  The photo is a bit faded, and the camera flash bulb is reflecting off of the rectangular shape.  In real life the colors were much brighter, the object on the lower left was greener, and the rectangular box was deep blue with yellow.  It was very 1950’s art style.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Mr. Frost

An undocumented biographical note

Mister Frost, like most champions of the prize,
was a large person, towering over the miniscule
poets skittering about the local minstrelsy.
One day, a gaggle of them,
worked out a magisterial moment for him to meet
an ancient rebel confederate; it was said,
alive on this earth a hundred and seven years.
They wished to scrabble up the usual TV detritus
about a New England bard discussing
the unlikelihood that there was a still extant
rebel miner, out in the dumps and pea patches
of the Appalachian crags. —But when they got there,
they found it was only an old black man
of a hundred and seven years who lived in a wooden
piano box on half an acre of ravine
covered in pine slash, out Jasper way.
He raised a dozen chickens, had a hacking cough,
and the two of them got talking what it meant to be old.
“You’ve got to keep moving,” said Mr. Frost.
“Else your bones will freeze,” agreed the old man.
“How do you eat?” said Mr. Frost.
“Oh, that ain’t so hard,” the centenarian replied.
“I use my welfare to buy me chicken feed,
and I has an egg for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for my lungs,
they awfully full of itchy dust from the mines.
It seems like nothing but whisky will cut the dust.”
Mr. Frost ruminated a moment,
then held up his hand as if someone
had started to speak. “The principle is,” he said,
“that I think we should leave this gentleman alone.
He’s got his life pretty well licked into shape,
and as a pledge of concern and farewell,
I’ll buy him a bottle of whisky,” said Mr. Frost.

By Andrew Glaze, Copyright 2015, from “Overheard In A Drugstore”.

Finally officially published in 2015, my father’s first drafts of this poem started as far back as the 1950’s. Early versions of it were donated to the Harvard Library along with paperwork from his first published book, Damned Ugly Children.


 Adventures with Robert Frost

It all began at Harvard, when my father’s English and Poetry professor kept seating him beside Robert Frost during dinners at Leverett House.  It was 1938, and Leverett was the dorm house for the English Major students. To this day, all of the residence buildings at Harvard have their own dining room and food service. From what I was told, Frost came on an almost monthly basis as a “Guest of Honor”.

 My father had his own theory about the monthly seating arrangement.  He said that he was very shy and a good listener, while Frost loved nothing more than to have an admiring audience.  The monthly dinners were the equivalent of a supper club where Frost held court. For that reason, despite having four years of undergraduate dining opportunities to mention his own poems to Frost, my father never said a word about them. It was a perfect match.

My father’s English and Poetry professor was Theodore Morrison. Ted also became his first mentor.  At the same time, Morrison maintained a supportive friendship with Robert Frost, which was why Frost came to dinner on a monthly basis. And when Frost’s wife died in 1938, Ted’s wife became Frost’s secretary.  Both of the Morrison’s looked after Frost in his older years to the point of agreeing to move into his main house along with their children, while Frost happily moved into a small three room cottage on the property.  Frost would join them for meals and family time, and then head back to the cottage to work.  His own children were adults by then.

In 1942, World War Two was in progress.  My father graduated, joined the army, and was deployed to Europe.  Upon his return, he received a Fellowship for the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference of 1946.  Hosted by Middlebury College in Vermont, the Conference is the oldest in the US, and one summer week long.  Its 1926 inception is closely associated with Robert Frost, who lived nearby and attended 29 of the summer sessions.  The 1946 staff included Frost, Ted Morrison, and Wallace Stegner. My father knew them all from Harvard.  William Styron is listed as a “student” that year. Everyone at the conference was either already known or about to become known.

On a side note, Stegner moved from Harvard to Stanford in 1945, and 1946 is when he founded Stanford’s “Creative Writing Program and Writing Fellowships” (now called “Stegner Fellowships”).  To quote Stanford’s website, “Notably, the Writing Fellowships were particularly aimed at WWII-era returning servicemen. ‘I arrived at Stanford just as the GI students were flooding back,’ Stegner said. ‘Many of them were gifted writers. They had so much to say and they had been bottled up for two or three or four years. They were clearly going to have to be handled somewhat differently from the ordinary 18-year-old undergraduate.’  Stegner writes that it was Eugene Burdick’s short story entitled “Rest Camp on Maui” (published in Harper’s Magazine and winner of the second prize in the O. Henry volume for 1946) which was ‘the beginning of everything’.” From that point on his program was secured with sponsorships and an endowment.

Coming across the information about Stegner’s start-up program for returning servicemen has helped me to understand how, why, and when, my father ended up going to Stanford University.  The book Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work by J. J. Benson reveals “After his first year at Stanford, he was so impressed with Eugene Burdick and another student, Jean Byers, that he took them to Bread Loaf with him as Fellows, and when he came back to Stanford, he brought with him two Fellows that had impressed him at Bread Loaf”.  One of those two was my father.  An autobiographic history by my father says, “I did six months of graduate work at Stanford. But it finally came to me –why?  I didn’t want to teach.  … So I threw up graduate work and came home to Alabama”.  Teaching had been his original plan; the paragraph below his Senior Class photo in the 1942 Harvard Year Book said so.  

Meanwhile, back at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference of 1946, judging by the number of photos my father took, my father hit it off as friends with Eugene Burdick.  I say this because most of the photos include Bud.  My father’s papers also include letters from Bud.  For this reason, I’m sure my father was upset when Bud eventually died in 1965 of a heart attack at the age of 46.

The photos also include the annual Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Softball Game.  This tradition came out of Robert Frost’s love of baseball, and was played on a field at his nearby farm.  Players were made up of the staff, the Fellows, conference students, and visitors.  Frost loved to participate and usually led one of the teams. Tactfully, the organizers made sure the strongest players were assigned to his side, so he almost always won.

My father made a repeat visit to Bread Load in 1948, and I have reason to believe he returned again in 1953.  In 1969, after his first book was well reviewed and won an award, he was invited to return as a full-fledged Bread Loaf staff member.  It must have seemed odd to no longer have Frost presiding over them; he passed away in 1961.

The story behind the poem “Mr. Frost” is based on fact and is an accurate depiction.  Jasper is a small town just outside of Birmingham.  In an 1985 interview with Steven Ford Brown, my father explained, “Once when coming through Birmingham on one of his reading tours, he had his host call me and ask to spend the day with him.  (This caused considerable flusteration, since I was an insignificant young reporter).  I always heard he was terrible with younger poets – jealous and disdainful, but he was good to me.  Perhaps he didn’t think I was good enough to be a threat, and I never pestered him to read my manuscripts. That must have been a relief.” In later years, my father stated that the organizer for the outing was actually the owner of the newspaper he worked for. Also, that Frost came to Birmingham to do “An annual reading at Birmingham Southern College”,  and was hosted by the Professor who organized the event. It was the baffled Professor who was charged with calling my father to invite him to spend the day with Frost.

As for the timing of Frost’s visit to Birmingham and the outing to Jasper, I’m guessing that it was after my father’s 1953 visit to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, but it may have been earlier.

My father eventually mentioned Frost in three of his poems. In his poem “Tick Tock”, he starts the poem with “Was it with Grandpa or Robert Frost I rode out to look for the way we lost?” And his poem “Old Poet”, which was written later in life, pays homage by repeating a final line,
“Or by what fork of the road,
or by what fork of the road.”

The surprising thing to me is that I grew up with zero awareness of my father’s acquaintanceship with Frost.  Somewhere in adulthood I learned that Frost had been at the Bread Loaf Conferences.  However, it wasn’t until one late night in 2010, by complete accident, that we discovered the existence of Frost’s note complimenting my father’s poetry (the note is reproduced below).  I was trying to update my father’s bibliography.  Whenever I needed a mental break, I’d type my father’s name into Google along with the name of another writer, and then add “+ Archive”.  As soon as I typed “Robert Frost” into this equation, an OCLC World Catalog entry popped up.  It said, ”Note, 1956, April 14, Ripton, VT, by Robert Frost.” “A favorable appraisal of the poetry of Mr. Glaze”.  By the next day I had a scan of the note from the Dartmouth College Library.  At this point I called my father to say, “Did you know that Dartmouth has a note from Robert Frost, saying that he likes your poetry?”  There was stunned silence at the other end of the line.  

Aside from excitement at discovering the note’s existence, my first emotion was gratitude that my father was still around to enjoy the news.  The mystery of the note was solved by an online notation that read, “Gift of Kathleen Johnston Morrison, 1978”.  Kay Morrison, the wife of my father’s late Harvard professor and mentor, and secretary for Robert Frost, had kept the note from 1956 until 1987. She donated it a year before her husband Ted died. She died a year or two later. 

Ted Morrison remained my father’s friend and mentor for many years.  Among my father’s papers is a letter from Ted, dated May 24th, 1954, giving him feedback on two poems in progress.  One was “Ho Farragut!”, which appeared in The New Yorker one year later. The second, “A Cut of Copernicus”, appeared in Poetry in February of 1956 . The logical explanation for Frost’s 1956 note is that Ted asked Frost to take a look at poems he’d recently received from my father.  Frost read the poem/s while sitting in his cottage, attached the note, and Kay returned it all to Ted in the main house. Ted and Kay kept the note, because they felt it was a trusted private exchange.  Frost died in 1961, less than six years after writing the note.  My father’s first book was published in 1965, and probably contains poems that Ted and Robert Frost read.  My father dedicated the book “to Ted”.

Interestingly, in August of 2015, when my brother and I hosted a book launch for Overheard In a Drugstore at the request of the publisher, my brother read the poem “Mr. Frost” aloud.  As he read, he happened to glance at our father sitting at the front of the audience, and realized he had tears streaming down his face. My interpretation is that he was remembering times he’d spent with Mr. Frost and Ted, and feeling grateful in the knowledge that his old acquaintances had believed in him all along.

—- E. Glaze

1946 BLWC staff and fellows 2
Used by permission of Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.
Faculty and Fellows, 1946 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
Rear L to R: Robert Frost, Robert Bordner, Graeme Lorimer, Andrew Glaze, Wallace Stegner, Rudolph Kieve, Theodore Morrison, Eugene Burdick, William Sloane.
Front L to R: Carol Warren Burdick, Kay Morrison, Helen Everitt, Mary Stegner.

“I should be sorry if a book of verse as genuine and readable as this couldn’t find a publisher. I have high hopes of Mr. Glaze.”
(Reproduced by permission of the Robert Frost Estate.
Photo courtesy of Rauner Library at Dartmouth.)

Breadloaf '48 Ted facing camera, John Ciardi with bat, AG left with bat
Andrew Glaze with bat on shoulder, Ted Morrison facing camera, John Ciardi with bat on ground.  Photo property of the Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018.

Eugene Bud Burdich 2“Jean Byers and Bud Burdick”. Photo by Andrew Glaze, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018.

IMG_20170111_0003“Wally Stegner, Ted Morrison, Robert Frost. Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1946”
Photo by Andrew Glaze.  Property of Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018


Bending up the stairs,
dance case swung to my shoulder to the back,
I looked one flight above and saw Nijinsky
sitting on the steps—I swear—
his thighs wide-stretched and huge,
facing me with wild, high cheekbones, V-shaped chin,
clinging over me like an angry Scaramouch.

His eyes burned with a hollow light,
and stared in mine like a curious grievance brought to bay.
Contempt drew down the corners of his mouth,
made ploughed contours over the ridges of his eyes.
—you are too gross to speak of—he seemed to accuse
—old clot of fifty-eight,
desecrating my youthful art—.

“Exercise!” I stammered.
How could I make the ridiculous word compose itself?
I writhed in the contumely of his eyes
with their ghostly fire,
so the truth came hurtling out
like a series of tours de reins.
“I pickpocket a taste of it, that’s all—for love.”

His face cleared as though with a blast of light.
He grinned, fading,
and I swear, left a fleeting thought
as the stairs grew stairs again
and a tiny wind blew,
—Nothing excuses anything—nothing—
but passion’s the most forgivable greed in a thief—.

© Andrew Glaze,1991, from Reality Street

This was the first poem ever published by Dance Magazine, August,1980.


What made my father decide to start ballet lessons at the age of 45?

In his youth my father played soccer and softball at school, skied, hiked and biked in France after WW2, and played golf and tennis in his 20’s. When we lived in Greenwich Village I watched him hit tennis volleys against a designated brick wall at a local playground. After we moved uptown to 53rd Street, he biked to and from work every day, and occasionally rode around in Central Park. 

I had been a ballet dancer since age 3. This was for two reasons.
One.  My mother noticed that I spent large parts of the day dancing around the house.
Two. She happened to read Agnes De Mille’s best-selling autobiography.
In it De Mille revealed that she’d led a tortured life, because she’d been denied ballet lessons as a child. My mother said she looked at me pirouetting around the room, went into full panic mode, and quickly enrolled me in The Lola Mae Jones School of Ballet. This was Alabama, and, yes, not only was there a genuine “Lola Mae Jones”, but she had a daughter with the same name, so there were actually TWO of them. My excitement was short lived. Even at the age of 3, I was worldly wise enough to realize that pretending to be a clock or a teapot had little to do with ballet, and I craved the real stuff.  By the time I was five I still wasn’t past the tea pot phase, and couldn’t handle another minute of pretending to be an elephant swinging my trunk. I retired.

THEN, we moved to Manhattan and my father’s cousin Hansel took me to see The New York City Ballet perform Balanchine’s version of The Nutcracker. I wanted to be one of the children in it, and by that spring I’d come out of retirement and auditioned for their school.  By September I was a student at the School of American Ballet.  My teapot days were over. Instead I had two Russian ballet teachers; one frequently terrorized us to tears, and the other was so sweet we took advantage of her. I soldiered on with determination.

However, my father’s own interest didn’t awaken until after he met and married my stepmom. She was also a ballet dancer.  At that point, he wanted to learn more about the career of his new wife, share in her interests, and understand our terminology. In addition, he once told me that he took up ballet for exercise, because he found traditional calisthenics to be extremely boring. I suspect it also appealed to his lifelong love of classical music, and he enjoyed the easy comradery of his adult classmates. For me, the drawback was that my adoring father transitioned into a dad who not only knew when I was dancing well, but also knew when I wasn’t.

After he retired from his job in the 1980’s, he took up golf again, although his equipment was fairly ancient. I have it on the best of authority (my husband) that when things weren’t going well on the golf course (which was frequently), my normally mild mannered father would release a fountain of profanity that made other golfers blush.  When it was really bad, clubs would go flying. This was not the case when he was at the dance studio.

He never flattered himself that he was very good at ballet, and truthfully, he was not. But he enjoyed it, and kept it up until he was 82. At that point he moved back to Birmingham with my stepmom, and switched to yoga classes instead. He kept up with yoga until he was around 93.

Personally, I think Nijinsky would have been rather impressed with that.

Vaslav Nijinsky, as the Golden Slave in Scheherazade, 1888.

—E. Glaze

Queen Mab Song

Mother was dying. Asked my sister courteously
(what other way can you think?) – troubled, as one
who’d forgotten a little something—
“Martha, could you tell me who my husband was?”
Then she heard the news. Her gentle cheeks trembled
with a gust of fear – or amazement, out of years past.
–“Not one of those terrible Glazes from Elkton!”

Her people were (and are to this day)
a pleasant, loving, ceremonious folk
who number cousins down through the generations,
build their houses slowly, one next to another,
as children run in and out like spinning bobbins,
weaving the cloth of coming and going and having gone.

My father’s clan were a mad cannibalistic lot.
His father, a run-away, spent the civil war
in the saddle, cutting and bandaging Forrest’s men,
hadn’t spoken to his father or hated step-mother
in years – later, didn’t speak to his second wife–
all the time they were raising a clever brood of five.

Descended from such a union, it’s not prodigy
that I crawl like a baffled planet across an eerie sky.
Driven first by bitter attachment to blood,
nothing at all to do with either sense or the time,
whether my people care for my cares or what I do,
and also, without a break in the music, lives out of step
wildly alone, balks at their company
or being away from it, either remembered or alone.

Yet I’ve had luck. That I could not destroy myself as my father did,
and had one talisman to clutch, and lonely craft
woven out of her music, his passion for words–
her calm plenitude, his untamed wildness,
which by its spell delivers me across ditches,
flares in darkness. By its strange gift to shuttle
madness and wrong, it weaves fire and water
into a strong cloth spun out of one house
winding into another, up against sky, down into earth,
strapping filth and nakedness into song.

© Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018, previously unpublished.


The story at the beginning of the poem is completely genuine, and has become legendary among the members of the Glaze family.

My Grandmother, Mildred Ezell Glaze, died just short of turning 94 years old, in 1981. The average age of death in her family was always over 90. Her one downfall was osteoporosis which landed her in the hospital, with a broken hip – twice.  I remember that both times her doctors predicted she’d leave us soon from congestive heart failure after becoming bedridden, only to eat their words — twice. It was only after she tried to open a window and her back collapsed that she really did begin to slide downhill, at which point her memory decided to join in for the ride. 

She had always been a petit but firm matriarchal figure. Her white hair behaved itself in a tidy French twist during the day, but cascaded down her back when she brushed it at night.  She was from Pulaski Tennessee, outside of Nashville. It was a metropolis compared to Elkton just down the road. 

As a teen, during a visit to Birmingham with my father, I went along to a dinner party one of her friends was hosting. Afterwards, Mamma sat in a chat circle with her friends and I realized that every one of them had blue eyes and a pearl necklace.  

My father liked to repeat a story she’d told him about a similar gathering many years earlier. It was spring, and one of her friends had invited the rest of them to her home at the height of strawberry season. They all dressed in their best and sat around her oval dining table, chatting and eating as they dipped their strawberries into a large platter of white powdered sugar at the center of the table.

It was during this idyllic scene of privileged indulgence that the hostess’s pet parrot suddenly got the notion to fly into the room in search of his mistress and aimed for a landing spot. He selected the dining table. It was only as he began his descent that he noticed the platter of powdered sugar below him and changed his mind. Pumping his wings furiously to regain height, a giant mushroom cloud of powdered sugar arose all around him and female guests ran in every direction. When the dust settled everyone was coated in white.

“Mamma”, as I called her (for Grandma), had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. They grew up living near their cousins and did indeed spend the day running between houses. She had a wonderfully happy childhood. For their entire lives the 5 girls went by the names their youngest sister Mary gave them as a baby. Martha was “Arter”, Marjorie was “Argie”, Mildred was “Mimmi”, and Sarah was “Tarai”. 

My mother once told me that Mamma, who was her mother-in-law at the time, had confided, “Andy’s so proud that he resembles his father that I never had the heart to tell him that he looks just like my own father. I married a man who looked like my father.”

The reality was that he also inherited many of the personality traits and interests of her father. His own father wanted a son to play catch with, and took him to shoot guns at the driving range, but he was more interested in watching baseball, reading, and listening to classical music. According to my father, his younger sister was the apple of their dad’s eye. His mother realized this, and later admitted that she made a conscious effort to be my father’s champion to try and balance things out.  It helped, but not completely. He always struggled under the feeling that he never quite lived up to his father’s expectations, and since my grandfather died when my father was 25 and overseas in the army, he was left to try and wrestle it out through his poems.

Ironically, when my brother became a teenager he spent most of his free time playing softball in Central Park, dreamt of going to the pros, and once lamented to me that our father was never the type to take him out and throw a ball around with him. Clearly, it skipped a generation. As for myself, my father cultivated a large number of common interests in me, which is how I ended up excitedly attending my first opera with him when I was all of four years old, and attending Gilbert & Sullivan productions with him as a tween. At age 8 I loved nothing more than to watch the “Play of the Week” on television with my parents. On the other hand, my brother inherited our father’s gentle and shy personality, enormous loyalty to the women in his life, quick witted sense of humor, and the ability to generate nonstop groan worthy puns. The talent for puns was an ability that my father also shared with his former father-in-law, W.Y. Elliott, and even, to my great dismay, with my husband. As puns have never been my favorite form of humor, I have spent my life cringing my way through many family dinners.

My father spoke several times to me about the fact that his mother read “Water Babies” to him as a child and he remembered it as a beautiful tale. So much so that he picked it up years later to reread, only to discover that it contained a large amount of religious content that he had no memory of. So he asked his mother about it and she replied, “Oh, I left all that stuff out when I read it to you”. He was impressed by her ability to edit on the fly. He carried on the family tradition of reading books to the younger generation at bedtime. By the time I left to study in England shortly before turning 19, he’d carried on reading to me through high school until we finished the entire Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. I did the same with my daughter and she was in high school by the time we finished the 7th book of the Harry Potter series.  My brother not only read to his children but shared our father’s interest in reading P.G. Wodehouse books aloud to his wife in the evening.

After the divorce, which was initiated by my mother, I remember visiting Mamma’s apartment the following summer and noticing that she’d carefully cut my mother out of a framed group photo. According to my uncle, she also massacred the entire photo album. There was no mistaking it; she was pissed off.  Despite his great emotional pain, our father never said a word to us against our mother. His loyalty remained unshaken, and he remained friends with our mother’s parents.  Mamma also remained congenial to them after the divorce and told me she’d visited the local funeral parlor to sign the condolence book when our maternal grandmother died. It was a lovely gesture that had required effort. She had no way to get there other than to call a taxi.

Mamma had travelled to some extent when she was younger, and she visited us in New York City on several occasions as she grew older. These trips gave me the opportunity to observe a skill that my father and my uncle had discussed with bemused amazement for many years.  Mamma had the ability to strike up a conversation with a total stranger in any city, and immediately find some direct connection they had to Pulaski Tennessee. It happened repeatedly. In Mamma’s world, all roads led to Pulaski.

Before she died I asked her to leave me a statuette that I’d always admired sitting on her living room shelf. My father was thrilled that she fulfilled my request, because he loved it too.  The statuette had a story to accompany it.  She said that my grandfather had stopped off to visit a friend who had an art gallery, and fell in love with the statuette. So he bought it. He bought it even though it was during WW2 and he had to use all of the food ration stamps they had for the entire month, which he happened to have with him since he had just picked them up.  She said she was ready to kill him at the time, but was glad to have the statuette now.  Personally, I think our grandfather realized that he had other options available to him and that they’d never starve to death. You see, a few years earlier Mamma had presented me with an Elgin watch she had as a spare, explaining that it was one that Dr. Glaze had received as a barter payment from a patient. He was a dermatologist, and I’m going to hazard a guess that his patients often paid him with food and ration stamps as well.

This may sound strange, but my grandmother’s teeth outlived her.  When she eventually landed in a nursing home, every evening a new nurse would ask her for her dentures, and Mamma would reply, “They’re my own”.  And every evening they wouldn’t believe her until they finally read her chart and realized that, at age 93, she did indeed still have all of her own teeth. In addition, her teeth had few, if any, fillings. My father inherited her teeth genetics. He used to come home from dental cleanings and tell us that while he was sitting in the examination chair, the dentist had dragged every single member of his staff into the room exclaiming, “Look at this set of teeth, because you’ll never see another set like them again!!!”  Her Ezell family DNA for teeth is what everyone in our family hopes to inherit. My brother was lucky enough to be on the receiving end.  It might seem like a strange sort of legacy to leave behind, and it’s about as predictable as a winning lottery ticket, but to those in the family who have it, it’s priceless!

Mama Niazuma Ave. 7-1938

Mildred Ezell Glaze, photographed by Andrew Glaze, 1938.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018

— E. Glaze


For Alice Esty,

In Bengal at the Spring Festival
having carved a small boat
out of the fresh wood,
they walk to the river late at night.
It looks like a vast sliding ebony sea,
and each lights a candle,
sets it at the center
of his own vessel,
and pushes it gently out into the water.

Faster and faster it’s carried away,
thousands  of lights! lights! lights!
rushing past like a field of flickering stars
drifting over the edge of the waters of the earth
into everywhere.
Something in me is about kneeling down
doing that every day.

© Andrew Glaze, 1978, from The Trash Dragon of Shensi

WNYC radio has a 1978 podcast of Glaze reading “Lights”. It is near the beginning of the broadcast:

In the ’70s I worked in Europe as a professional ballet dancer and my father and I exchanged letters regularly.  The summer of 1976, I came home to visit and my father showed me a page of hand written sheet music by Ned Rorem. It was a piano accompaniment to his poem “A journey”, with the words “For Alice” scrawled in a corner. He explained that a friend had shown his 1974 booklet “A Masque of Surgery” to a female friend who fell in love with the first poem in the book and commissioned Rorem to put it to music. My father played a tape of the song for me. I had no idea who the soprano was.

Not many years ago, I was looking through The Trash Dragon of Shensi when I turned to the first poem in the book (“Lights”) and noticed it was dedicated to “Alice Esty”. My father had no memory of who she was. So I looked on the internet and discovered she was a soprano who married William Esty, the founder of Esty Advertising, and became a patron of the arts. In particular, she commissioned composers to set poems to music for her to sing. Ned Rorem was a favorite. I realized that she was the “For Alice” mentioned on Rorem’s sheet music for “A Journey”, and it was her voice on the tape that I’d heard in 1976.  The logical conclusion was that when his next poetry book came out in 1978 my father decided to dedicate a poem to her as a thank you. When I jogged their memories, my father and stepmom concluded that their link to Alice Esty had been a friend named Walter Perry, from Birmingham.  Later, my stepmom remembered that Walter’s wife Julia was the daughter of Alice and William Esty.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, once a year the Perry’s would come North to Manhattan and host a formal dress party of epic proportions.  The photo below is from that era.

Walter Perry's party

Walter E. Perry Jr. (left), Adriana Keathley Glaze (center), and Andrew Glaze (right), at one of Walter’s annual formal parties in Manhattan.
Photo property of Andrew Glaze Estate.

— E. Glaze

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