I’ve written poems about people, to people, for people. But yesterday, I not only wrote a poem about, to, and for a person, I literally gave him the poem.
It all started when I read a column by W. Thomas Smith, Jr. in Military Week. Thomas wrote a beautiful tribute to Colonel David Hackworth who died last week. After reading the column, I visited various Net sites, including Colonel Hackworth’s, and came away impressed by a man who was truly a hero, who both praised his Army and objectively criticized it. I wrote Thomas to tell him how much I liked his tribute. And I told him he had inspired me to write a poem.
We exchanged a few more emails, and I decided to literally give my friend the poem—in other words, to give not only the poem but also the rights. He asked me what I planned to do with it. I told him that as long as I could include it in my next collection, the poem is his to do with as he pleases.
I’ve admired Thomas’s work for a long time. He’s written for so many magazines and newspapers, it would fill the page to list them all. He’s written acclaimed books on military themes. That goes to follow, because the author served in the military. His official bio at uswriter.com notes, “He served in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry leader, parachutist, and shipboard special-weapons security and counterterrorism instructor. Following his hitch in the Corps, he served on a para-military SWAT team in the nuclear industry.” As a correspondent, he has reported from battlefields in the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. His story-book career deserves a poem.
I met Thomas years ago at a writers’ conference where we were speaking. After the conference ended, we had drinks and stayed in touch. I felt immediate common ground because Thomas is one of the few people who do what I do: write for a living. He also is an adjunct at the University of South Carolina, his (and my) alma mater. He is a complex and learned man.
And because I’m Southern and deliberately politically incorrect, I will also say he is very attractive.
Tom is one of those men who is born to soldiering. My father-in-law is the same kind of man. I grew up with a strong sense of military service from the males in my own family, reaching back to the Revolutionary War. So I took great pleasure in offering a poem to these warriors by way of a poem that rests on Thomas's own biography.
They are one of the primary reasons I can write whatever I like today. And I am grateful.
Visit W. Thomas Smith, Jr., on the Net at:
Includes links to his writing sites and blog.
A digest of Thomas's writings and books.
Thomas's bio and weblog link
Click on the "Enter" icon. Link to his blog is at the bottom of the page.