RIP Hayden

I admit to feeling old when the birthdays I acknowledge in spaces like this start to get dwarfed by deaths. Yet Hayden Carruth, another of my literary heroes, passed away on Monday. Carruth’s brilliance was the fusing of jazz rhythms of New York with the plain speech idioms of northern Vermont into linguistically rich portraits of the people in his world, from the farmer down the road to the avant-garde artist. With a syncopated poetic line that echoed the innovations of William Carlos Williams and Robert Creeley, Carruth pushed at the boundaries of American language, keeping it fresh, vibrant, and filled with music. Besides poetry, he wrote jazz criticism, philosophy, personal essays, and fiction. Through it all ran a passionate engagement with the social problems of the world. As his friend Bill Haxton said, “he’s always been remarkable for his passionate expressiveness about matters of the deepest emotional concern, from his own personal experience, to his empathy for strangers, particularly the victims of social injustice and historical mayhem of various kinds. Violence, warfare, the depredations of the powerful at the expense of the poor.”
Carruth died at 87 in his home in Munnsville New York after a series of strokes. For your reading pleasure, I recommend 1996’s Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey.

Hayden Carruth
1921-2008
Rest in Peace

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