Lifetime Achievement

I would never have hallucinated that the day would arrive when I might be given recognition for a lifetime’s work. Yikes!
A lifetime’s work?

Here’s how that happens. You do what you do every day for some 45 years and then you get an email informing you of such.

Some things, I admit, I did dream about: hitting the game winning home run in the seventh game of the World Series, receiving a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, draining a thirty foot jump shot with time running out to win a championship for my father, seeing Julie well, but what happened a couple weeks ago I could never imagine.

Okay, so what happened? First the Poetry Society of Michigan informs me that they have named me Honorary Chancellor for the next two years. This means so much: these poets work with poetry and poets for all the right reasons: respect for both poet and poetry, support for those who compose work that connects us to one another and to what deeply matters, encouragement to those learning the art, and an affirmation of poetry as crucial to  sustaining all that is humane. They give themselves to bringing out the compassion and understanding that we carry into each day.

Then, along comes a message announcing that the Literary Society of West Michigan has recognized me with one of their four awards given to those who have contributed to enhancing, enriching literacy. I was cited for a lifetime (there it is again) of work restoring understanding of what poetry really is and what it can bring to and do for others.

I feel okay celebrating these two recognitions because they were not something I worked for or dreamed of or hoped for or even knew about. They came as a result of doing what I do. I learned from my father, the coach, to never make “winning” a goal. It should always be a result. I’m even more fortunate than he was. I didn’t even know there was something that would come from, I say again, doing what I’m still doing.

Yes, I was floored when told of these. I will try to believe this was deserved. I’ll try.

PS. Speaking of the Poetry Society–the other day, their anthology, Peninsula Poets arrived. Reading the poems, I was once again shown how important poetry can be to one’s life. Every poem in the collection matters. Each came from what mattered to the poet; each connects to what matters to us all. The editor, Edward Morin, should be named “Editor-of-the Year.” He, James Ahearn, Julie George, and Angela Maloy must have given up half the hours in their days to devote themselves
to creating this edition. Gratitude abounds.

I have, of course, overlooked others who deserve celebration. If you are interested in joining this soul-sustaining organization, contact Cynthia Nankee at

And now back to earning the right to carry these recognitions.

15 thoughts on “Lifetime Achievement

  1. Dear Jack,

    Congratulations on both well-deserved awards. You are indeed Michigan’s poet laureate. Maybe you will soon replace the state bird if you continue singing in poetic language! Let us hope that snowfall does not dash our Butler lunch at 11:30 tomorrow. I hope to get out of the office soon tonight. Stephen

    • Oh, Stephen Hemenway, so good to see your name. Do enjoy your luncheon with dear Jack tomorrow and know that I toast you both! With love and tears of remembrance, Barb Wrigley

  2. How truly fabulous, Jack! Indeed, I second the nomination that you become Poet Laureate of Michigan – I may have spelled L…..incorrectly but that’s okay. I am very excited for you. Will there be an official awards ceremony some time? Wonderful. Linda MacD (Kalamazoo)

  3. Jack, and Julie, because it’s a partnership,
    Congratulations. There are probably many poetic and laudatory words I could dream up to enhance that one, but that would be work. Leave it said that the honor is well-deserved. Every day I am reminded that we live in a world that isolates, judges, demoralizes, and condemns. As a human being I sometimes feel the lights are often thin and flickering. Your heart provides access to the Real, to the Light that gives us hope in being Human. Keep a-goin’!

  4. Congratulations, Jack. I am so happy to see you get recognized for all you have contributed. You may have no idea how far you have cast your bread on the waters during your long career. I still have the Englist Lit journals that Reid and I wrote back in 1977, filled with your comments. You tailored your comments so beautifully to Reid ‘s and my differing needs in terms of feedback. I was so taken with that, I decided to share excerpts of your journal responses to my faculty colleagues recently at the clinical psychology doctoral program where I teach. They were inspired as was I.

    With much appreciation through the years,
    Nancy Stiehler Thurston

  5. Dear Friend (I’m proud to be among your friends), Congratulations…I’m certain Dr. Charles Cook is proud of you, too!

  6. Big congratulations, Jack! I just know both awards are very well deserved. You are one of my favorite poets, and a fine man. You write from the heart and that speaks to those of us who try to do the same. Cheers! Jan Duncan-O’Neal

  7. Mr. Honorary Chancellor, Sir: This is good news indeed. Both honors are more than richly deserved. They just begin to hint at what you do and what you mean to the poetry world and all the people in it. With deep respect and high regard, J. H. Bach P. S. HOORAY!!! Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 22:48:34 +0000 To:

  8. Wish I could be in Michigan to toast you, Jack, or, better yet, to take one of your courses. But, since I’m in Virginia, I raise a glass to you and hope your “Lifetime” will continue on for many years and many more poems!

  9. So proud of you jack!! You have been blessed with an incredible gift to make words speak louder and more clearly and in more meaningful ways than peoe expect. They read one of your poems expecting one thing and then you give them often what they least expect: what they need. Hope that was coherent in my extreme jet-lagged state.

    Love from Toulouse France, Matt

  10. Your poems are simply wonderful! Congratulations on being named to the helm of our state’s Poetry Society. This award, and any others you may receive, is richly deserved.

  11. The latest issue of Peninsula Writers is stunningly both inside and out. These people are very special. I contacted Ed to offer a small congratulations and asked if I might buy 10 copies to give to my students. Not only did they offer me a discount but Cindy drove 30 miles, from her house to mine, to drop them off to me. They are wonderful people. Congratulations on your Chancellor-ship – they are wise people too.

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