My brother Tim Reynolds was once an up-and-coming poet. Kenneth Rexroth described him as “a poet of very great promise.” I wrote Mark Strand when I was writing my Master’s thesis on Tim and he wrote back, “When I knew Tim in [Antioch] College he was a very bright boy and a very precocious poet. . . Nobody I knew at Antioch came close to being as talented as he. And I’ve met very few poets since then who began with more raw talent. . .” (27 July 1992)
During those years Tim met some of the poets we have all heard of. I asked him how he met Robert Frost.
“He read at the NY Public Library. Afterwards we got in line; we were to write down two lines of his we liked and he’d sign. The only book I had was a library copy of Spenser, and his aide told me he signed only his own books or blank paper. I tore out the flyleaf of the Spenser and wrote:
“Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something
“Drink, and be whole again beyond confusion
“He said Most people write ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’ and signed it. A few years back his friend Bill Meredith told me I couldn’t have chosen better if I wanted to please Frost.
“Years later he spent a few days at Wisconsin. He did an afternoon with the University Poetry Club. When I went there they wouldn’t let me in, I wasn’t a member and they didn’t like a non-member winning University literary prizes. I said if they didn’t let me in I’d yell to Frost that they were refusing to admit a poet.
“When Frost realized there wasn’t going to be anything stimulating from the floor he told us how he’d just come from Alexander Meiklejohn, a contemporary friend who’d run an experimental school at Wisconsin for a while, students in togas stuff, Patchen went there. Meiklejohn was in terminal coma, so they showed Frost into the hospital room and left them alone. Frost didn’t know what to do. He talked at Meiklejohn, reminiscence. Meiklejohn didn’t move. Finally Frost got up to go, turned at the door, and said, Anyway, we had a hell of a time. This wee ghostly murmur drifted from the bed, Hell of a time, Robert.
“The next night he read. For an encore everyone had to stand while he read Mending Wall. People stayed after to talk with him down by the stage. I was back under the balcony overhang, watching. I watched poets every chance I got, I wanted to see how they did things. Finally there were only half a dozen people left. He told the Meiklejohn story again. This time I got the timing, word choice. It was really beautifully told. They all left together up the central aisle, his aide holding his arm. He left the aide and came over to me under the balcony and stuck out his big hand. He said, You were there all the time, weren’t you? We shook.”