The Last Underground Poet

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WHEN in Philadelphia recently, we touched base with old friend and colleague Frank D. Walsh. His work is hard to come by online, so when I say he’s the best poet Philly has produced in the last 40 years, you might not believe me. As quick evidence I can give only a link to a few poems at an Irish literary site, including this one:

http://www.deaddrunkdublin.com/poems/frank_walsh/complaynt.html

What makes a master at the poetic art?

It’s the poet with every tool in his poetry toolkit. The person who can throw in offbeat rhymes, multiple allusions in a phrase or word, rhythms of every kind, and give the listener or reader enough wordplay to make the experience fascinating, even wonderful. John Berryman would do this on occasion, as would Ezra Pound. Shakespeare was the master of masters at the art. At his best, Walsh attains that company.

Why Frank Walsh hasn’t received the attention he deserves may have something to do with his integrity. To quote Frank Norris: “I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies.” Anyone who’s met Walsh knows his outspokenness– not an advantageous asset in a literary world of cronyism and connections, maintained via backslapping and glad-handing. A poetry world filled with posturing frauds, which Frank Walsh is not.

He’s paid a price for it– lives underground for real– but maintains his optimism. “It’s all material” for his writing, he said about his hardships. A mindset for all writers.

(Photo of Frank Walsh snapped at famed Philadelphia watering hole McGlinchey’s.)

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