I am close enough to break
the circle of my life, sitting on a bench in Radiology,
my ninety-one-year-old father next to me in an open-back smock,
waiting on a test for pneumonia. My hand circles
his freckled, bare shoulders and balding head and I’m reaching back
sixty years, touching him as he first touched me.
– excerpt from “Stroke” by Bruce Willard
In the opening pages of Bruce Willard’s third book of poems, “In Light of Stars,” there’s an intriguing quote from legendary saxophonist John Coltrane: “I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.” Trane was referencing his progressive soloing technique – and Willard’s work has a similarly expansive and transcendent quality. From the carded spokes of a bicycle wheel to the long ribbon road of a high desert crossing, Willard swings through a lifetime of memories and miles to engage the larger questions of our place on earth. Compelled by personal loss and buoyed by his love of music and the natural world, his poems rise up (much like the clouds above his oft-traversed Rockies), as he throws his attention to earth and sky, better to understand his own dynamic and shifting inner weather. As renowned poet and 32 Bar Blues Voice of the Art Afaa Michael Weaver says, “Willard’s poems articulate the genuine pitch of what it means to be fully alive.”
In addition to his life in poetry, Bruce Willard is Chairman & Founder of 32 Bar Blues, which he created in 2012. “I was inspired to build a business that gave back to the artists who brought me joy and whose life work I thought needed more exposure and celebration,” he says. To that end – and since the first catalog – 32 Bar Blues honors many of the pioneers of American music, writing and photography. And they promote a handful of nonprofit arts organizations through the recently formed 32 Bar Blues Foundation. All profits received from selling these special books, CDs and logo clothing – together with any donations received at checkout – are sent back to the artists and the nonprofit organizations that are featured. In keeping with the spirit of 32 Bar Blues tradition, 100% of the profits from the sale of his book, In Light of Stars will go to 32 Bar Blues Foundation.
Willard’s poems have appeared in 5 A.M., Alaska Quarterly, AGNI, Cortland Review, Harvard Review, NPR’s Writer’s Almanac, Poet Lore, Ploughshares, Salamander, and other publications. His first collection, Holding Ground, was published by Four Way Books in 2013. Violent Blues, his second book, was published by Four Way Books in 2016. He lives in Colorado and Maine.