Originally published in Willow Springs 81

From the author

Notes on “Letters to Jim Harrison”

I would call these letters space travel and also “literary homage,” a term possibly I made up, not sure. Certainly we know Hours by Michael Cunningham, or the time Ben Greenman rewrote Chekhov’s stories, etcetera. Much of the Chinese poetry I’ve submerged myself in (I know “submerged” is hyperbolic, but it’s the best word I can find) all autumn is one poet writing through history to another. Homage. My particular project begins with the 1925 death of Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin. Possibly by suicide—a long story involving the Soviets, drunkenness, and writing poetry in your own blood (Apocryphal? Maybe). But jump Time and Space. To the early 1970s, wherein American writer Jim Harrison (of Legends of the Fall fame, if any) is suffering poverty, publishing failure, doubt, and the black dog of depression. He begins writing to Yesenin, letters/prose poetry. Jump again to 2006, I’m in Michigan. A southern boy suddenly alone in the cold. I eat my meals in bars and sleep a lot (or lay under blankets on the floor in a malaise/sleep-like state, sweat pouring off my body). I discover Jim Harrison’s books at the Grand Rapids public library. I fall in love with his writings, especially the poetry. I read all of his works. Jump to 2016, Jim Harrison dies at his writing desk, while writing a poem…This hits me hard like a river boulder to the chest. A gray winter cloud. In grief and respect, I begin to write him letters. So far, I’ve written 95 that are decent to okay good. I’ve written about 300 that didn’t leap from the water into daylight or even make it from the swirling eddy of writing, trying to. I’m still writing these letters.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I’ve been listening to a Mozart channel I found on my phone. It’s from Canada. I recently found another better one on Amazon Prime. Again, only Mozart. I only listen to Mozart or Morrissey. At least for the last twenty years. I also like the muffled sound of snow falling on snow, especially in a swamp or lowland area near a river, but that’s not technically music. As for eating, I only eat meat I personally kill. A lot of venison, since I’m a bow-hunter. A giant king salmon I recently caught up in Michigan. I thought I had hooked a runaway train or deep regret, etcetera. A giant fish. We fought for many minutes (they seemed extraordinarily long at the time, and, thinking the whole thing over, later on, I realized that in fact they were). I do eat shrimp, though I’m not sure why that exclusion to my rule exists but humans are inconsistent and odd, as we know. I eat a lot of nachos, with sharp cheddar, refried black beans, a wide array of hot sauces. I glow hot sauces. I have a new one a librarian (and heroin addict, though I’m not sure that’s relevant here) gave me that contains all four of the hottest peppers on the planet (Trinidad, Carolina Reaper, Bhut Jolokia, Red 7-Pot). Very tasty. Will clear your sinuses and soul. As for booze. I really like to drink beer and vodka and red wine but it’s also important to regulate that, you know, the main motive being so you can keep drinking. Alcohol is a variety of suicide, of course, but a lovely one and anyway this isn’t a dress rehearsal. This life. So I’m dealing with that balance right now. To drink wherein I don’t have to stop drinking. In brighter news I am getting a puppy soon!! A rat terrier. Cute as a narwhal cub and twice as smart. I do have mixed feelings about this endeavor, but life is nothing but mixed feelings. It will either work out grandly or not at all.

About Sean Lovelace


Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he teaches in the creative writing program at Ball State University. He often writes about cheese or processed cheese products (including a chapbook about Velveeta). He also wrote Fog Gorgeous Stag (Publishing Genius Press). He has won several national literary awards, including the Rose Metal Short Short Prize and the Crazyhorse Prize for Fiction. He likes to run, far.