Volume 28, Number 6:  May 2010

From the Chair  |  In Print  |  Panels & Presentations  |  Awards & Appointments  |  Miscellany  |  From the Editor

The Common Reader

Professor Emeritus and Poet Peter Makuck Comes Home

Until recently, Peter Makuck was someone who I only knew in print. Working for the Tar River Poetry magazine, I had encountered quite a few of his poems and reviews as we laid out each issue, but I was never able to meet the man who had left such a profound impact on the lives of those in the Greenville area. This all changed on April 27th. Armed with his newly published book of poetry Long Lens: New and Selected Poems, Peter Makuck walked into Bate 1023 as more than a name on paper. His impact on the room was immediately noticeable. Old friends, fellow teachers, and colleagues galore came out of the woodwork Tuesday night to see the beloved poet return to his old stomping ground.  Peter read a number of old and new poems for the audience throughout the night, and one poem in particular, "Prey" really made me smile. I asked Peter if I might reprint the poem in The Common Reader for all to enjoy. His reply was a resounding "Yes!"

Coming from the pool
where I've just done laps, letting water bring me back,
I'm already elsewhere, thinking
about Tennyson and my two o'clock class
when a squirrel appears
ten feet from the concrete walk, by an oak.
Then a loud ruffle at my shoulder,
like an umbrella unfurled, before a flash glide
makes the Redtail seem to emerge from me
and nail the squirrel with a clatter of wings—
a long scream that strips varnish from my heart
         before the sound goes limp.
She presides with mantling wings
over the last twitches of gray as I
edge closer to her golden eye.
She hackles her head feathers, tightens her talons,
holds me prey to what I see, watches me
as she lifts off, rowing hard for height, the squirrel
drooped in her clutch.
       Now skimming a lake
of cartops in the south lot, making for the break
between Wendy’s and Kinko's, she swerves up
sharply to land on the roofpeak of a frat house
over on Tenth.
Some noise from the world snaps me back.
I look about, but nobody has stopped
to look at me or where she stood by the tree,
only ten feet away. Slowly released,
I move ahead with the passing student crowd,
holding fast to what I have seen.
After it was all over, I shuffled over to meet the man who I had heard so much about during my years as a Pirate. Getting through to him took a bit of digging as those in the room had crowded around for their own piece of the Makuck pie. Eventually, I was able to get my time with Peter. "I'd love to interview you for TCR," I said. He replied with a smile and said "of course." Exchanging information, Peter and I set forth on what has been one of my most enjoyable cyber conversations yet to date. A few rounds of correspondence later, and it was all finished. Without further ado, here is my slice of the Makuck pie.

                                                                                              -- Will Angel

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