a poet dies young

Jake Adam York died a few days ago—it is sudden and terribly wrong. I never had him over for beer and BBQ (mine and his). I meant to and did not do it. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Those closest to Jake have lost a friend, husband, family member, colleague. Many others who knew him are shocked and saddened. He was only 40 years old, and this is hard to accept.

Jake gave us his books and his work as a teacher, among other things. These are the ways I best knew him. In his 12 years here in Denver, we had more than a few students in common. One of his former students is now a trusted colleague and good friend of mine.

When I have read Jake's very fine poems, or better still, heard him read to an audience—and he was remarkable—the poems moved me. That is the ultimate point in poetry, and I'll leave it to you to discover what I'm saying about his work. Read what he wrote and you'll see this and hear this.

Here are three images of Jake I will carry with me.

An evening book release and reading at Cameron Church in Denver, Nov. 4, 2005. Jake reads from his first collection, Murder Ballads. He cuts a fine figure at the front of the room. The reading is powerful, musical, and deeply appreciated by the audience. Afterwards, at the bookstore signing, Jake can't stop grinning. Signs a lot of books.

A hot June evening at the kickoff party for Lit Fest 2007 at Lighthouse Writer's Workshop. We're on the back stoop of Tom Ferril's house in Denver, Jake and I—entirely possible Sandburg and Ferril jammed guitar and mandolin on this porch—just saying. Jake pours me a very cold beer from the keg. We talk BBQ and beer and poetry, and he shows me a couple advance cover images for A Murmuration of Starlings. He asks my opinion on the choice—that generosity of spirit, but also his genuine enthusiasm for making a book of poems.

A Lighthouse salon event, another Lit Fest, in the basement of the Jet Lounge in Denver. Jake and I talk to about 30 people in the muggy, close, but very alive room. Our topic: Becoming a Sensuist. Jake riffs magnificently on the music of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the sacredness of the senses. I open a bottle of wine, pour and savor—and discuss Epicure's garden and phenomenology. What a privilege.