Last Friday, I attended the retirement party for David Lehman, poet/book author/professor/cultural critic/mensch. I knew David’s writing and esteemed reputation when I was told six years ago that he’d be formally observing my teaching. Despite my then 32 years on the New School writing faculty, I freaked out.
I believe we know something—a whole lot--about people within seconds of seeing their faces. When David appeared five minutes after I started class, I saw his intelligence, wit, and warmth. I continued doing what I do.
When my department head sent me David’s report, I walked on helium.
I then read his book, A FINE ROMANCE, Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, soaking in his knowledge and observations of Broadway musicals and the great composers, ecstatic he shared my love of Buffalo-born Harold Arlen, who attended the same school as my father. David and I began emailing each other about Arlen, Frank Loesser, and more. I was a guest blogger for David’s The Best of American Poetry blog.
I asked David if his retirement from teaching meant the end of our discussing musicals.
Of course not.
Someone at the party asked me when I plan to retire.
Probably never. I’m teaching fewer credit students, more professional and retired people who write and sell essays and memoirs, and more one-day and two-hour workshops at the New School (Click here for information about the next workshop), the Strand, and elsewhere. On September 5, I’m offering my first workshop at the Jewish Book Council.
When my father started teaching law at the college level in his late 50s, he came home with a spark in his eyes that he had not gotten from his practice. I’ll keep at it until my spark disappears.
I’m writing more. And in a new genre. It’s harder. And it’s not. I’m excited when my unconscious and I rock ‘n roll.
A student my age, in my advanced workshop for 11 years, who sells his essays and is writing a memoir—it’s great—said, he’s starting to hit his stride.