June 16th, 2011 by Dale Hobson

Nowadays, we tend to think of mentors as elders–some steadier, wiser hand to set one upon the path. But I grew up in the ‘60s, when if you weren’t a peer, you were basically dog chow. “Never trust anyone over thirty,” was the watchword. Silly perhaps, in retrospect, but a genuine feature of the social dynamics of the time.

Allen Hoey, who died one year ago today, was a peer/mentor of mine. Lord knows he was neither steady nor wise at the time (though he grew into both those qualities eventually), but he had a unique ability to get somewhere new just ahead of everyone else–or ahead of me, at least. Over the years we lived together, worked together, wrote together, and stayed way up late together.

The infectiousness of his enthusiasms translated well into a career of teaching, writing and publishing. His maniacal energy level made him a prolific creator, an evangelist for the language he loved, and a generous mentor in the more modern sense to decades of young women and men.

Allen Hoey

Allen, with glass of Guinness

In addition to being the anniversary of Allen’s death, June 16 is Bloomsday, the date in 1904 on which the entirety of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses took place. This was a serious holiday in Allen’s world, celebrated each year with a big brawling party featuring readings from the “Master,” the imbibing of astringent fluids of Celtic origin, the smoking of stogies, and rambling discourse upon life, the universe and everything.

Happy Bloomsday. Here is a poem for Allen I wrote in April:

Moving On

I’ve been expecting you to come around.
These nights when winter wrestles spring
two falls out of three and comes up short,
I can’t get to sleep for the rushing wind.

We always rode this weather out together
talking late after the bars sent us packing.
Silly crap, vainglorious affectations, paranoid
politics, art jabber, life, love and language.

It’s clear to me now how much you lead,
and I followed, as you pioneered new poets
new music, new thinking, moving on—and I
came along, a little cautious, less whole-hearted.

Which spared me many of your deepest dents:
lost lovers, bitter partings, the mandatory
reinventions of your outlaw inner self. But
now I wonder if I spared myself too much.

This is something we would have talked over—
as we could work our way through any topic.
But you have moved on to a whole new scene
now, and I can ill afford the ferryman’s fare.

8 Responses to “Bloomsday”

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  1. Mark Holland says:

    Well writ sir. I’ll toast his memory over poetry and cigars tonight, but I like your tribute better.

  2. john says:

    Thanks for this Dale. I think of Allen more than I would have ever imagined I would. I had the great joy of reconnecting with the nearly fully evolved Allen the last year of his life through chats and posts on Facebook.

  3. velma says:

    i like your poem.

  4. charlotte miller says:

    “… inner outlaw…” I love that… Thank you for this and every one of your thoughtful weekly columns… Makes me miss my NNY home more and more!

  5. Nice. Thank you. I am moved, thinking, considering, pondering…

  6. Ronnie says:

    Love the poem. Thank you.

  7. Paul R. Sheppard says:

    Powerfully expressed, Dale. As well as “let us re-Joyce day”, June 16 means for me among other things my last day in the business world before I switched to English teaching (1967), and the birth of our first grandchild (1996). Your poem illustrates an archetypal relationship: the tribute from a more “cautious” (your term) partner who pays posthumous tribute to a more flamboyant friend and role-model, who is ultimately tragic because unlike the rest of us he will not, cannot, compromise with the age in which he lives and conform to its demands. In an American classic novel, one sees an outstanding example in Nick Carraway’s death-lament for Jay Gatsby. A 1942 Canadian poem “David”, by Earle Birney, makes a similar point with terrible physical and moral force.
    Thanks for the chance to comment. I always appreciate your columns. Keep’em coming.

  8. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t think I ever had a mentor. I don’t believe I ever wanted one. So I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to comment on mentors.
    I would like to talk about Joyce.
    I started to read Ulysses when I was about 19 or 20. After awhile, I put it down without completing it. Then when 21, I decided to try it again but change my approach. Rather than diving into a great work of art/ literature, I began reading it as though it were pulp fiction and rather enjoyed it.
    That said, I much preferred Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
    Call me what you want but I really don’t like novels to be too long. Some of my favorite books have been novellas such as Old Man and the Sea, and Death in Venice to name but two.