Friday, October 07, 2011

In Memoriam: James Richardson & Steve Jobs

I received a message yesterday from a friend, the great poet Honorée Jeffers, letting me know that another very fine poet we both knew, James Richardson, had passed away. I did not know James well, but been acquainted and his work for over two decades, and followed what he posted on the Cave Canem Foundation's Fellows' listserve avidly. His messages, critiques and commentary and our occasional direct exchanges showed that in addition to possessing the gifts of wit, critical acumen and an exuberance in everything he did, James knew a great deal about poetry and poetics. He also had written a dissertation comparing understanding of the Diaspora in fiction by Jewish-American and African-American writers. James taught at several different institutions, including Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, and Phillips Academy, as well as most recently at his alma mater, Hampton University. He passed away shortly after suffering a heart attack. James leaves his sisters and extended family, including his students, colleagues and friends. Write poetry wherever you are, James, and keep on teaching.


Steve Jobs (
So extensive are the online tributes about Steve Jobs (1955-2011), the late co-founder of and chief impresario behind Apple Computers that I have nothing to add, except this: since college I primarily worked on Apple computers. I wrote both of my books, and am writing new ones, in addition to almost every poem, short story, play, translation, essay, letter, student critique--everything that I have not penned or penciled--and all these blog posts on one. (I had forgotten until coming across the mention in an online copy of my high school yearbook that "many" of my wealthy high school classmates had Apple II or III computers at home, and I was one of the yearbook's co-editors, so I certainly read that copy even if I didn't write it. I was still using a typewriter back then.) C will remember my beloved little SE30, the first Apple computer I ever owned, which I bought with the proceeds of the first major award I received, which was the only way I could afford it, and that machine was easily worth countless times its purchase price. It was invaluable. Every Mac I've purchased since has been as well.

As I've shown more than once on this blog, I have also drawn hundreds (I think it's now upwards of 350) images, figurative, abstract, semi-cartoon, what have you, on an Apple product (my iPhone and iPad). I have designed moving gifs and web pages, made microfilms and edited videoclips, and even tried my hand at admittedly dreadful musicmaking on an Apple computer. I have taken thousands of photos, produced thousands of tweets, sent thousands of emails, on Apple products. This blog is even accessible from a app(lication) available on Apple products. My debt to Steve Jobs is immense and grows. He did not just create a successful company, but rethought how we interact with technology, which is to say, rethought and reshaped how we live. Right now, I am sitting in a café, reading short stories by my undergraduates and graduate students, and know without even querying them that many were produced on Apple computers. Near me six people are working on Apple's Macintosh computers; four are listening to music, podcasts, or who knows what on iPods or iPhones. This would mirror any cafe across the US.  Past the large picture windows, shaded by ecru screens, a thickset man bops down the street, Apple headphone wires descending from his ears into this pocket. It is almost impossible to think that just 10 years, iPods didn't exist; just 7 years ago, there were no iPhones; and before January 2010, while there were tablet computers, there were no iPads. Now their purchase is both becoming an educational mandate and provoking political scandals.

Apple Computers would not have existed without Jobs, but it might have listed on towards irrelevance had he not returned to its operations in 1997. Even when he'd left the company and during all the years he was associated with it, right up to these last few weeks, it has been his vision, coupled with the genius of countless engineers, marketers, manufacturing workers, support staff, and customers, that have produced the remarkable creations issuing regularly from its offices and factories. Thank you, Steve Jobs, and your imprint and those of all associated with Apple will remain on my work, as it will on many others, for time to come.

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