My name is John La Selva. I currently reside in Wilmington, NY. I moved to Lake Placid with my then wife, Kim, and my two year old son, Jesse, in 1995. As a writer, I took to the Adirondack’s immediately. It’s a very inspiring, mystical place.
I became an avid kayaker and have paddled most of the waters within a 50 mile radius of Lake Placid, including all of the 58 lake and ponds of the St. Regis Canoe area. It is an amazing place, non motorized, full of peace, serenity and lonesomeness. I’ve seen plenty of wildlife out there over the years and have come to fully understand Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things”. One of my favorite poems!
Let us go back for a moment. The year is 1982. It is my Freshman year of High School. I was living on Norman Road in Upper Montclair, New Jersey at the time. The house across the street was a rental property and a new family moved in. They had two sons, Rob and Scott Harding. We quickly became friends. Rob was a little older, maybe two years. I had always written stuff. I was very interested in music, paying close attention to the lyrics. It was all poetry set to music to me.
Over the summer of 1982, I went to Europe with the American Institute for Foreign Study at the urging of my English teacher, Mrs. Upton. It was a Senior program, but she was insistent that I go. We studied at Cambridge University for three weeks before embarking on France, Switzerland and Italy. While in Cambridge, England, I learned many things, especially how to drink! In England at that time, if you could see over the bar, you could drink. In Cambridge I “met” Jim Morrison and introduced myself to the Doors. I bought “No One Here Gets Out Alive” and an album or two. Although we had never actually met, because he was dead by that time, I connected with his words. Because of my learning issues, ADD, I never read much. So, I guess my early influences were musicians… singers. I grabbed onto their words and they were delivered in a way I could understand.
I returned to the States in August of 1982. Everything seemed a little different. I was different. I just had the most amazing experience of my life, perhaps to date! The party began in Europe and continued until 1984. My friends and I drank and smoked and smoked and drank. Yes, there was marijuana involved and other things. Somewhere along the line Rob started playing the Bass Guitar. We wanted to form a band. I was going to be the singer. We needed someone to write lyrics, as the idea was we were going to perform original material. The band never happened, but the Poet was born.
I went to work for my father in the summer of 1983. He was and is the Conductor, musical director and owner of the New York Grand Opera. I spent that whole summer in New York City. He rented the basement of a church on 34th Street, just up from 9th Avenue. Not far from the Lincoln Tunnel. My job was to guard the entrance so no one got in that wasn’t supposed to be there. I met many people, including a few bums. I would talk to one in particular. He was not homeless, but walked the streets pan handling and drinking. He inspired me to write a poem “Gutter Walks and Slate Wall Talks”. We had developed a friendship. We talked for hours on a daily basis. Turns out he had come from money and had some money. The last day of my time at the church, he came walking up quickly. He was dressed nicely in a suite and cleaned up. He said he was off to rehab and wanted to thank me for being a friend and talking to him. I can’t quite describe the feeling, but I felt good. Though I can’t remember his face or his name, I remember our conversations. We taught each other something during those days. I think about it often to this day and I thank him for the experience.
During that summer, there was a woman in the Chorus who saw me writing. I had spiral bound notebooks full of poetry by that time. I was writing 10 – 15 poems a day! It was just poring out of me. I couldn’t stop it! Her name was Eunice. She said she was a published novelist and would be interested to see what I was producing. I brought my books in. We sat in Central Park by the 72nd Street Band Shell where the New York Grand Opera performed. She started to read through some of it. She said it was good and asked if she could edit some of it. I agreed. Eunice became my editor. It wasn’t long before she wanted me to publish. I was 15 years old! I had enough for three full volumes of poetry!! I didn’t know what to do, so I declined. She was heart broken, but I had done some research and found a young man who had also published three volumes of poetry by the age of 15. Afterward, he disappeared. Never to be heard from again. No one really knows what happened to him. If it was pressure, I could understand it. I think the story was in “No One Here Gets Out Alive”.
Anyway, although I have continued to write, I never published; save a few poems in various publications. All of that early material has been sitting in a box for the last 32 years. I haven’t looked at it much, until now. I find as I am getting older it may be time to re-explore that stuff, along with my new stuff. Somewhere along the line, I lost faith in myself, my words and Humanity. Maybe my writing is, or was, bullshit. I began to feel that perhaps my words were meaningless and don’t matter. But that damn box keeps staring at me from the corner of my living room. All that work, all those words trapped inside. Then I began to realize the box is me. I am the box and I’m sick and tired of being trapped within myself.
I realize now that, although I am in the Hospitality Business and I am a Real Estate Broker, I was born to write! What other explanation can I come up with for the fact that I have thousands of poems and short stories I wrote? Many of those before I was even 16 years old!!! The writing just flows out of me, to this day. I can feel it coming. I get quiet. The thoughts start coming and within minutes I have a completed poem looking back at me. It’s raw, and honest and without thought. In fact, when I start thinking about it, I lose it.
While looking through the box the other day, I found a letter Eunice wrote me. She attached an article on the general subject of fiction writing. She said the third paragraph in the first column is very apt where I am concerned and that I’ve already learned how to do it. It reads as follows…
“The writers art is measured by the ability to transcend personal memory. The function of the writer it to widen the path to the subconscious, to awaken memories of the race, to refine the ability of an individual to have contact with life, to be at one with others…”
I could not have said that better myself! That is what I do! Or whatever possesses me does. So, here I sit, getting closer to 50 years old. What do I do with my box full of blues? Do I have the courage to release it? Do I have the courage to release me? I mean, all of these poems and stories are pieces of me! Am I ready for that? Are you ready for that? Sometimes I feel it’s best to let it be discovered after my death. Leave it sit there until I’m gone, Let someone like my son find it and turn it over to someone. I don’t know. I’m feeling like maybe it’s time to set it free, thereby setting me free.
I thought my early stuff was crap! But looking through it now there may be some validity there. I mean it was deep, but young. I guess I was young, right? I opened the envelope Eunice sent me all those years ago. Long with the article referenced above, there were a few edited poems. I’m going to include one as an example. I wrote this on April 4th, 1983. I was 16…
~When The Trees Begin To Talk~
Walking down the street, you begin to shiver in pain
You ask yourself, could this mean rain?
But it was such a beautiful day.
Such a beautiful night
Your heart begins to race,
You’ve set a very fast pace.
Everybody seems to have disappeared.
There’s no trace
The world turns and turns.
Headed for a new beginning.
People think there’s no bright side,
that it just stretches far and wide!
The real rat race has begun
I can tell you, it’s no fun
It’s no fun dancing under the sun
When the trees begin to talk,
You know it’s going to be a long walk!
Forty – fifty light years away shines the special day
I woke up this morning
Got myself a taste of fear
Walked to the refrigerator – got myself a beer.
I started this Blog, because I could not access johnlaselva.blog.com. It’s OK, because now I own adirondackpoet.com. It’s one step closer to releasing myself, opening the box. Doing what I was born to do, even if it has been done and I’ve written everything I can. Probably not though. I think there’s more in the tank. There always seems to be more in the tank! It may not be 10 to 15 poems a day, but the work I produce now, and for the last 20+ years is good. Some titles include “A Time”, “Killing Floor (The Serpents War Cry For People Peace)”, “Lying Upon The Beams (of Life)”, “A Christmas Wish”, “Lost and Found While Driving Around”, “I Saw My First Love In A Dream”, “One Passage Through”, “I Heard A Gun Shot”, “My Lost Summers Youth” and on and on and on!
So, from Lying Upon the Beams, I say “hello to you. It is good to see you again. To laugh, to cry, to remember and forget. It is good to once again pretend that the gold lies around the next bend, for I see you my friend”.
JvLs – 01/24/15