For Tony Park, In Memoriam by Evan Oakley

Mentor, enduring friend, and poet comrade. How I miss him. 

Fragments of poetry, riffs of music, fleeting images from the prairie world of his Wyoming childhood, amusing things his neighbors said . . .Tony loved to collect the lyrical and quickly fleeting things of this world.

As a poet and photographer, he captured all he could of them, creating ceaselessly. His wife, his kids, his dogs and cats, fast cars, chocolates, the quirks of friends, they brought him joy. Many things brought him joy, and none of them small or mean. 

The faults he had, the lapses, the frailties of ego, were eventually defeated by his abiding kindness. And he forgave these traits in others. I profited many times from his large-heartedness. 

Kindness for the underdog, for the adrift, for those who didn’t know they were beautiful. He wanted to help them, and he did. Now a year since his death, I still hear from students and colleagues who esteem him for the regard he brought to their lives.

Memory would ultimately betray him, but his courage remained. His Kerouac-like spirit sustained nearly to the end: “Man, wow, there’s so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears…”― Jack Kerouac, On the Road  How to get it all down? That was Tony’s constant longing.  

Through a long and growing illness, he wrote, and he gathered, poems, quotes, images, photos, moments of light; he labored to get it all down. At last, his speaking voice and written voice thinned out, but still he retained a great victory. One I’ll always remember: a gentle wonder over existence, even in grief. 

 How I miss him.


 On the website, poems from the last manuscript, by Tony Park. Now published in this Aims Review, a journal that originated more than 35 years ago in a gathering Tony first created and called The Dry Creek Review. This publication is greatly changed from its origin, but one thing of his remains: a joyous spirit of gathering and cherishing.