Tom Weatherly's memorial, November 2014

Detail from back cover of ‘Maumau American Cantos.’

I’m Janet Rosen. Some of you know me as Mrs. W #4. Not funny: he was an optimist, not a guy who said marriage didn’t work for me I’m never doing that again. No. He just kept trying, and he also had profound relationships without benefit of legal or religious ceremony.

In 1991 Paul Fussell published a pompous book called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America. There was a chapter on what he thought was Bad poetry. It was clear that Fussell had just cherry-picked arbitrary lines from an anthology of modern poetry edited by Andrei Codrescu. Weatherly was furious. “I AM NOT A SURREALIST. I AM AN IMAGIST. Read the entire poem and decide!” We tucked that note with a copy of the offending poem in its entirely into the review copies of BAD at the Strand when no one was watching. Weatherly did not mind if you disagreed, but you had to offer an informed, intelligent opinion.

Someone called Thomas Elias Weatherly the missing link between the Imagists and the Language poets. If it was one of you poets out there, please let me know. Or perhaps he said it himself. The way he said that he was hemi-demi-semi famous. He was also the best oxymoron. An edition of the Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry cited him as “an important minor poet.” But to everyone tonight, we know he was important. Important as a poet and as a person. 

[Note: after this introduction, numerous poets, friends, and relatives offered their words. Janet spoke again towards the end of the evening.]

How to remember TEW by making his steamed garlic chicken

First, have a fresh chicken cut into eight pieces — kosher, of course. Leave the skin on until after the chicken is cooked. This is not going to be “company chicken” or an attractive Instagram dish. The only guest who ever ate it was Frank Wooten, who had been a cook at the Lion’s Head. But if you eat poultry, it is succulent and delicious.  

Arrange the cut-up chicken pieces in the basket of a heavy duty steamer. Weatherly being Weatherly had splurged on All-Clad. Now cover the chicken with as many peeled cloves of elephant garlic as you can until you don’t see the chicken. Tuck them under everything, too. Really garlic it up. Cover the pot — and you did put enough water in the big pot below the steamer, right? 

Let it cook over a medium flame for almost an hour.

While the garlic chicken steams, tinker with a poem you have been fussing over for several years as you watch a rerun of Deep Space Nine, listen to Public Enemy, smoke an American Spirit, rub dead skin off your forehead, bite your nails, argue with a loved one, sip a single malt, and draw a colorful nonobjective design in the margin of the dictionary.

Now the chicken is ready. Your apartment is more garlicy than Gilroy. Open the lid and remove the garlic — which is cooked to a buttery softness — and smash and spread it on good French bread. Under the garlic, the chicken will be covered in an ugly steamed skin. Remove and discard. The now-cooked chicken isn’t so pretty, either. It’s kind of grayish. No matter. It is falling off the bone and infused with garlic, and the chicken fat has mostly dripped through the steamer to the water below. Serve with the garlic bread, and some obligatory green vegetable. You have now prepared Weatherly’s steamed garlic chicken. Delicious. After dinner, widen your eyes like a cartoon character and say, “CAKE! CAKE! I WANT CAKE!”