I'm pretty sure the first time I saw Jack Wiler read was at the Bowery Poetry Club's New Year's Day reading. I'm very sure the first time I saw Jack Wiler read I knew he was a great poet.
He read one of his extermination poems. Few poets know extermination as Wiler did, much to poetry's loss. He worked for a bug and rat business, in sales and advisement, as I understand. The poem he read was about killing roaches but either it's not in his collection or I can't find it right now. It is, however, a wonder of a poem, detailed, true, funny. It is, like all of Jack's poems, simultaneously accessible and beyond my reach. I can understand it; I can't understand how he wrote it.
In search of the extermination poem I paged through Fun Being Me. I don't own I Have No Clue. What's so remarkable, again, about Jack's work is its effortless and successful attention to the commonplace. He writes brilliantly about the hardest thing to write brilliantly, let alone well, about: life.
I'm preoccupied with God and gods, the soul and her progress, the great way, the next stop. Wiler writes about wanting to have sex again. About wasting away from the disease and coming back to life. He writes a poem to his nieces. "You're two white girls in a world that is changing." The changes are good, as if the promise of a better world to come can come in the world that's here.
Jack writes why he loves his town and hates a noisy neighbor; of pleasures of barbecue, Jersey, women; of friends and their children, their music, their cheer and love. Of disappointment. I hear many attempts by many poets trying write of the everyday and most attempts, honest and heartfelt, don't get the lead out. Don't move beyond the personal. Because although a poem may be, on one level about meeting a friend Midtown N.Y. at Jimmy's ("Pilgrimmage"), it's got to be about something more to be a worthy poem. Each of Jack's poems were about this and that.
The final poem in Fun Being Me is "The Names of God." The poet has dreamed the names and they include "a classroom and it was full of dogs" "dead blossoms from the flowers I've planted" "when a great man is struck down."
Jack's been struck down. As he wrote on Facebook, "I've been a bad, bad boy." That led to the disease. When I asked him to sign my copy of his book I suggested he write, To Sarah, the best lay I've ever had (not relevant to our acquaintanceship). He wrote: For the sweetest woman on the planet. When I asked him to write a blurb for my book he said yes.
(His family has asked his poems not be republished at least for now.)