Monday, January 15, 2018

RIP Walter Howard

Walter at the Out of The Blue's prior location at 106 Prospect Street, Cambridge. 

Many of us have received news from Joan Kimball that Walter Howard passed away on Sunday at eighty six years old. he had been placed in a rehab-nursing home since a fall in his apartment some time ago, suffering from a number of maladies including vertigo. It was back in 2016 that Joan sought out previously published poems from Walter (apparently his personal papers were discarded once he was removed from his apartment). These poems have finally been placed a book coming out soon from Wilderness House.

Walter was a presence in my life since I started hosting Stone Soup over a decade ago. Even in my early uncomfortable days if the open mic was sparse or filled with people going into business for themselves and making the audience uncomfortable, I could always count on Walter to bring sanity and class back to the proceedings, sprinkled with his own brand of humor. His take on whatever was happening always helped put me right.

I appreciated both his presence and his smooth and wryly stable tone whether it was at Stone Soup, in Plymouth goofing around before and after the Poetry Showcase, or at the National Poetry Month festival at the Copley Library (where he once met and most likely baffled both my parents). I called him the open micer's open micer for a reason, and no one will hold that title ever again.

One of the nicest pictures I ever grabbed of Walter at the old OOTB.

I regret not making it to see him in the last few months. I wanted to feature Walter's book soon and had perhaps unrealistic hopes that he could have been at Stone Soup one more time this year. His book will now have to be featured posthumously with someone else brave enough to try and substitute for Howard's soft yet booming voice.  I thank Joan Kimball for at least allowing that possibility to happen. If it wasn't for her hard work, Walter's work may have been lost to us over time.

Walter with Bill Perrault and Felipe Victor Martinez from 2010.

I am thankful I was able to share as much video of his work as I did these past few years. I urge you to find them all on YouTube, but the one I'll share today is of a moment that's grown increasingly dear to me over time. It's a 2012 video of the time I foolishly held Stone Soup the day after Christmas. Walter, dedicated to a fault coming every week from Natick with his suspect car, was the only attendee. I recorded his entire reading on the mic.

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