Diana Raab’s latest poetry collection is Lust, including recent verse like “The Wave” and “Shivering.” In this guest essay for Beatrice, she recalls two of her friends and colleagues, and the love they shared.
Many of us are hard pressed to identify the most important influences on our literary lives. For me personally, there is a core of poets whose works have always inspired my own, and who I simply cannot get enough of. They include Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Charles Baudelaire, Sharon Olds, Rumi and Pablo Neruda, to name a few.
Other influences are like special friends—their warm words enter into our lives at just the right time, when we crave a special sort of transparency. Sometimes a personal encounter with an admired poet can initiate a sense of interconnectedness—meeting them face-to-face, hearing them read, listening to their nuances, and watching their facial expressions.
Most times, a poet’s works stands alone, but sometimes there are power poet couples who should be honored together. Not only are they wonderful individuals, but together they inspire and motivate so many people in so many ways. For me, this power poet couple is our beloved Kurt Brown and his beautiful wife, Belgium-born Laure-Anne Bosselaar.
I had been living in Santa Barbara for about seven years before first meeting Kurt Brown. We met through a mutual friend who said he and Laure-Anne were relatively new to town and needed an extra printer that I happened to have had in storage. The timing was right and before long Kurt pulled up in my driveway. Shy, gracious and appreciative, he loaded the printer in his trunk, expressed his deep gratitude and well wishes and drove away. Both of us predicted that in this small town of poets, our paths would cross again before long.
A few months later, Kurt and Laure-Anne brought Thomas Lux to town for a workshop. A number of events surrounded his visit, which gave us the chance to meet again. Kurt and Laure-Anne both exude a positive and upbeat way of being in the world—kindness and generous wisdom emanate from their tender souls. Like Laure-Anne, now widowed ten months after his passing, Kurt was a poet’s poet, in the sense that he celebrated and was proud of all his fellow poets, whether esteemed or emerging. He opened his heart and home to all.
His generosity of spirit was closely tied to his love affair with Laure-Anne, a poet and much-admired teacher of writing. When Laure-Anne and I first met, we felt an immediate connection not just because of our mutual passion for poetry, but also because we both spoke French. Both of us are somewhat private, but I still feel as if I have known her forever.
When Kurt suddenly passed away last year, I could not help but be there with her spiritually and physically whenever possible—to comfort the tender girl inside this very beautiful, brave, and brilliant woman—the love of Kurt’s life.
Very recently, Laure-Anne compiled an amazing posthumous collection by her beloved husband, I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello. The collection begins with an extremely moving introduction by Kurt Brown’s friend, the esteemed poet Stephen Dunn. This collection is not to be devoured in one sitting. It is a collection that needs to be appreciated bit by bit, like a big piece of flourless chocolate cake smothered with whipped cream.
Because Laure-Anne and I have both had long-term marriages, Kurt’s sentiments expressed in his love poetry really resonates with me. I might not have been ready to appreciate Kurt’s work when I was 25, like I did Rod McKuen’s whose work echoed my adolescent spirit. For poets, like people, enter our lives for a reason or season.
Laure-Anne’s and Kurt’s love story was akin to mine and Simon’s. The poetry of two people coming together who belong together; like pieces of an intricate and complicated jigsaw puzzle, from opposite parts of the world. Kurt started the Aspen Writer’s Conference and Laure-Anne traveled overseas from Belgium to attend. The rest is a beautiful story. When I was 19, I was hired to work at my husband’s father’s farm in Canada. There I met Simon and 40 years later we are still together. It is this kind of love at first sight that creates the best poetry in my opinion.
The opening poem in I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello will wrench your heart, especially in knowing that Laure-Anne had never read this poem until after Kurt died. We can only imagine the tingles erupting inside of her as she combed his computer for more gems like this—we can only wonder if she hesitated to invade that very personal space to reveal such intimate and private thoughts on her beloved’s computer. But, in reality, Laure-Anne did it to know what lay in the depths of her beloved’s psyche. A delightful way to honor his memory; to share his voice and soul with the world, and also a way to keep him alive forever.
That kiss I failed to give you.
How can you forgive me?
The kiss I would have spent on you is still
There, within me. It will probably die there.
But it will be the last of me to die.
Poets like Kurt Brown and Laure-Anne Bosselar are those who truly have lusted after one another and after life itself. They are the poets who, just by the nature of who they are, inspire us to forge forward and be the best we can be.
15 April 2014 | poets on poets |