A Few Words about Fred
Flower, Dean, The Hudson Review
Interview, Journal Entry and Poems
POEMS HAVE A WAY of bringing people together which is unlike any other. I remember a moment with Fred Morgan when that happened for me. In the late spring of 1983, an NPR station in New York agreed to produce a "Hudson Review Program," with former managing editor Richard Smith interviewing a group of recent contributors along with editors Paula and Fred. Before the recording began, we sat around-a little nervously in my case-talking for some reason about poetry and how you learn the basics of rhyme and meter. I remember claiming that for me it all came from A. A. Milne, quoting:
But I got stuck. With a delighted smile, Fred took up where I left off and quoted all the rest of it perfectly, giving the last lines their full exuberant bumpiness:
I'd have a fur muffle-ruff to cover myjaws,
And brown fur mittens on my big brown paws.
With a big brown furry-down up to my head,
I'd sleep all the winter in a big fur bed.
These were not just shared memories of our own childhood reading, as I discovered a few years later in Fred's poem, "Canandaigua." Among other, sadder memories of a lakeside summer, the poem recalls "the kids shouting and laughing," singing songs in the car, and at bedtime "I read aloud from A. A. Milne / or Oz or The Wind in the Willows." So that was why we treasured poems like "Furry Bear," having read them aloud to our children and newly appreciated them ourselves.
It was always interesting to discover what Fred knew, and how many of your own "authoritative" sentences he could finish for you. The second installment here of his 1997 interview with Michael Peich hints of that, especially when Fred recalls decade after decade of Hudson Review contributors and the ever-widening range of his-and the magazine's-interests. But he was always self-effacing about that. He would murmur a quiet corrective now and then, or insert an informative note, but never parade his learning. He was always more interested in what you had to say. Hearing his voice again in the interview, I am reminded of how generous he was. (How hard it was to eat anything at lunch with him and Paula, as they peppered you with enthusiastic questions! …