Today, when I received a note in my inbox from the New England Review mourning the loss of Jake Adam York, I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t. I searched the Internet for confirmation hoping that it was one of those cruel hoaxes. But it’s not a hoax. It’s true.
I have to preface my words here by saying that Jake and I were not personal friends. Indeed, we only corresponded a few times through email. We “met” when I first started my blog and I posted his book, Murder Ballads on my Christmas Wish List. He contacted me and in his email, he offered to send me a copy. While I thought that was very kind of him, I explained that Anthony, who saw my list, had already purchased Murder Ballads for me. Later, Copper Nickel (where he was an editor) accepted one of my poems, and we corresponded a bit then, joking about the weather in Western New York. (Jake had attended Cornell)
Still, when people would ask me who I thought was the best contemporary poet writing today, Jake would always be one of the first names I would mention. While Murder Ballads is still my favorite book of his, I loved his other collections as well. He approached the culture of the American South, in all its flawed yet in many ways, beautiful history, with a thoughtful, lyrical voice. His poem, “Elegy for James Knox” is one of my favorites, and a work I return to again and again.
I never met Jake in person. He was one of those poets I admired from afar. And lately, because I have been thinking a lot of the next life — where ever or whatever that may be, I do hope that somehow we will meet.
RIP: Jake Adam York