Unfortunately, sometimes you learn about people you would have liked to have known after they are dead...In this case, the poet and bookstore owner, Preston L. "Pat" Murphy. Turns out he lived in Freeport just at the time I was launching the Dead Poets Society of America. He died just a week before our April 23rd, 2010 kick-off event of the Dead Poet's Grand Tour 2010, in Portland's Eastern Cemetery.
Funny too that I learned about my old, unknown neighbor, while searching for another famous dead Maine poet: John Neal. It was Cliff Gallant's column about Neal in the Portland Daily Sun that led me to e-mail Cliff, who in turn turned me in the direction of Poet Murphy. Hope to soon pay a visit to his grave in Portland's Brooklawn Memorial Park.
Funny too how I have bought volumes of poetry at YES Books for my Tombstone Art projects; most-lately, books by Jewish-American poet Peretz Kaminsky. Murphy used to run YES books...in fact, I am fairly certain I would have met him during some of my book-shopping forays in Portland during the last three decades.
Here is a remembrance from Strange Maine:
I miss going to yard sales in search of books only to find Pat there ahead of me, hauling off stacks of delicious art books and who-knows-what. I miss the Pat that was, and I hope that young Portlanders in years to come have another Pat to make friends with, in spite of whatever gruff exterior they encounter. Because with your books, you need a bookman, someone who makes a place in the world that you can wander through to make friends with the books before you take them home.
Pat was many, many things in his life, but these are the things I remember him best for. Thank you, Darlene and Jon, for doing the best that you knew how.
Illustration: A favorite memory from the Danforth Street era of Yes Books: the bathroom toiletpaper dispenser with appropriately bookish and pop culture laden grafitti, recreated from memory.