The George Stanley Chair of Poetry is a thing and an idea.
The George Stanley Chair of Poetry both exists and, unfortunately, does not exist. What began as something of a joke between George and I now lingers somewhere between idea and fact.
When I first began teaching at Northwest Community College, my colleagues joked that I was occupying the George Stanley Chair of Poetry. I was such a hick I knew neither what a chair of poetry was nor whom George Stanley might be.
I first met George when he was in town working for UNBC or visiting his friends and former colleagues in Terrace. I had him over for dinner, he being a famous, charming poet and all. This was around the same time I met Ken Belford, Barry McKinnon, and Rob Budde. So much talent; it’s one of life’s pleasures to talk to smart people.
Before dinner, he took a liking to a chair I made. It’s a mission-style arm chair made of cedar. As soon as he sat in it, it was obvious that the chair was made for him, rather than for myself. Someone in this issue of TCR describes George’s mind as “imperious;” he looked positively regal sitting in this chair.
After a few more visits over the years, visits during which he would immediately head for the chair to await his pre-dinner martini (vodka, splash of scotch, lemon peel), I told him I would make him a chair of his own.
This took longer than I thought. I wanted to make a really super chair, much better than the one I thought I had made for myself. A friend of mine found the butt end of a yellow cedar in a log sort garbage pile in Prince Rupert. A local sawyer cut it up; I knew it was good wood when the sawyer said to me, “This is creamy stuff.” I seasoned those butter-yellow pieces of clear cedar for years, and when it was good and ready, I cut the parts to size, made mortises and tenons for all of the joints, and finished it up.
I took it to George last year. His old chair went in to storage, and the George Stanley chair of poetry came in to being.
The other George Stanley Chair of Poetry, the one I supposedly occupy, doesn’t really exist, but it should. Even though it might be a little big for me.