Ted Greenwald, The Age of Reasons & Common Senseby Stacy Szymaszek
(Both The Age of Reasons & Common Sense:
Wesleyan University Press, 2016)
Ted Greenwald and I were colleagues in a sense, in that we were both guardians of the Poetry Project, he as long-time board member, me as director. He was also, technically, my boss—part of the governing body that hired me for the job, except we both believed “I be my own boss / I be my own police.” As well read in small-press poetry as I was upon moving to N.Y.C. in 2005, I didn’t know Ted’s work until I found his book Common Sense in a box in the basement of the church. Many people have written insightful things about his singular style. Curtis Faville, publisher of the original edition of Common Sense, nailed it for me when he said, “Greenwald's style depends upon the rhythmic triggers that set unconscious thought processes into action. The poems become echo-chambers; or function perhaps as a ‘ghost tracking’ of stray particles in linear accelerators.” So I’ll work from there. When Ted was in hospice, I always had one of his books in my bag. I read “Show and Tell” from The Age of Reasons to my therapist who later told me he bought the book. I read from Common Sense to another friend who ordered the reprint for a birthday present for her father. This is the rhythmic trigger effect. You can’t hear Ted without wanting to hear more Ted.
This was true for me even in our phone conversations and emails. I would jot down something in my notebook that caught my ear with a “TG” after it. One of these made it into my poem “austerity measures”: “right dog. right time.” Another is stowed in my memory. In late May 2016, I camped for a couple of nights at Watch Hill, Fire Island. He told me a story about being there ages ago, and seeing some remarkable Fiddlehead ferns. I sent him a picture of some other kind of fern saying “not Fiddle Head but” and he wrote back, “Excellent foins,” which makes me smile to this day.
STACY SZYMASZEK is the author of the full length collections Emptied of All Ships, Hyperglossia, hart island, Journal of Ugly Sites and Other Journals, and, forthcoming, A Year From Today. Journal of Ugly Sites and Other Journals won the 2015 Ottoline prize from Fence Books. She is the current Director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church.