I spoke to Morton Fabler, the famous poet.
Sparrow: What’s it like, being a famous poet?
Fabler: It’s very gratifying. Often I’ll be in a new city — say, Baltimore — and I’ll walk into a deli, and the guy behind the counter will ask, “Aren’t you Morton Fabler, author of ‘The Quintessence’?” For some reason, they all seem to know “The Quintessence” — probably because it was in LIFE magazine.
Sparrow: Didn’t LIFE magazine fold in 1979?
Fabler: A lot of people think so, but actually LIFE was revived in 1998 as a weekend supplement to newspapers throughout the USA. “The Quintessence” appeared in an article on muscular dystrophy. A woman named May Clambes said that it renewed her faith in living.
Sparrow: Could you quote some lines from “The Quintessence”?
Fabler: You don’t know “The Quintessence”?
Sparrow: Well, I probably read it… but… uh… some of my readers may not be familiar with it!
Fabler: Okay. Here are a few lines:
Each life returns
to its origins.
We are all
Sparrow: Napping amoebas?
Fabler: Pretty good, huh?
Sparrow: What does that mean, napping amoebas?
Fabler: In other words, we’re like amoebas taking naps. Suddenly we wake up, and think: “Hey! I’m an amoeba!”
Sparrow: And that’s death? That awakening?
Fabler: There are many interpretations to “The Quintessence.”
Sparrow: You won both the Hutchinson Award and the Harkinson Award.
Fabler: In the same year! I tell you, I had a lot of trouble distinguishing the Harkinson from the Hutchinson. I was at an awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, and I kept asking people: “Is this the Hutchinson Award or the Harkinson Award?”
Sparrow: How do you compose your poems?
Fabler: You’ve heard of “method actors?” I’m a “method poet.” Suppose I want to write a poem about a rug. I’ll lie on the floor for two or three hours. Then I’ll say to my girlfriend: “Sandy, walk on me a little — but not too briskly!” In other words, I’ll learn how a rug feels. Then I’ll stand up, brush myself off, get to the desk, and start writing.
Sparrow: And that works?
Fabler: I once almost got arrested for entering a chimpanzee cage at the Bronx Zoo. I bribed one of the feeders to let me in. A policeman came, and was about to handcuff me, when I explained that I was Morton Fabler.
Sparrow: You’ve led a remarkable life.
Fabler: And I’m only 61!