Saturday, October 20, 2012


Approaching old(er) age, many of us consider what we have accomplished during our past decades.  For me, as for many others who have been lucky enough or who have made the choice, my children are the finest part of my life, and they are my pride.

Karl Pohrt, with his wife Dianne, can also be proud to be the parents of two lovely, kind and generous daughters.  

In addition, however, Karl did not wait until even middle age to create and leave another extraordinary legacy.  Shaman Drum Bookshop was born more than three decades ago.  This beautiful store was lovingly designed and shaped and stocked, becoming one of the handful of the best of the best independent book stores in the United States.  I remember Karl walking through the store, explaining the architectural choices he made and his decisions for the design of the store that lent it to becoming a repository for the best browsing space in town and that also allowed for the community aspects of Karl's vision to be realized.  It was not only a community of scholars, with nearby University of Michigan professors celebrating upon the publication of a new book with readings, wine, poetry and gatherings, but it was a community of booksellers, both internally and externally.  There are few who worked at the store who don't feel that it was a time of making friendships that don't end, of learning from others, of storing memories that are not forgotten.

It was with heavy heart when the doors closed, and I still will not enter the old space re-configured to the changing times into such ugliness it is painful to see, nor can I even walk by without physically being hit by the sadness resulting from what was so beautiful being supplanted by what is so ordinary.

from the 2008 Shaman Drum Bookshop Catalogue
And yet, when I think of my own memories of Shaman Drum, I realize the extent to which so many others over the twenty-nine years of its existence have equally strong memories of their own. Now I think of this extraordinary gift as equivalent to the sand painting produced with care and consciousness by Tibetan monks.  The space and the heritage was created by the efforts and determination of a single man.  The creation blessed others in the process. It emanated lessons and strength to those who were able to be witnesses, and it remains vividly in the memories of those of us who were strongly affected.  I express my deep gratitude to the man who made it possible.

It is an extraordinary legacy.

I wish to include here a beautiful poem written by my colleague at Shaman Drum,
Stephen Smith,
also with loving gratitude to Karl Pohrt



Change. Changing. A cockroach in the morning perhaps.

Descend a flight of stairs.

Ascend a flight of stairs.

"Daddy's Home"

Burst of love-smile.

A defined parameter of sand in the glass.

Measure. We humans can measure nearly everything.

"Observable Universe"

I observe.

You Friend.

Mentor, Father, Guide, Teacher.

I felt your pride in me welling up tonight.

You shaped me, sculpting, then urging me on.

I talked about floorboards. 

Damn if you were not mine. My foundation.

How do you pay that debt back? 


Change is the constant. Adapt. Alter. Move.

I want to strangle your cancer.

You will never let me hand you any credit.

Nature is so red in tooth and claw.

Stephen  Smith   October 13, 2012


Finally, this link goes to Karl's blog and his beautiful words expressed recently,
also repeated here below.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nine deep bows to life and death

It was a difficult summer. I've been trying to shake what I thought was a very persistent case of laryngetis. Unfortunately I just learned I have anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is rare, agressive and lethal. It usually runs its course quickly. Of course, I'm doing everything my doctors tell me to do. I'm also rereading Chuang-tzu. I especially admire his descriptions of the ancient Daoist sages:
They received life as a gift
and handed it back gratefully.
Minds supple, faces serene,
in a crisis cool as autumn,
in relationships warm as spring....

There was no limit to their freedom.

So I'm trying not to waste my energy leaning away from this. I am tired, but I remain in good spirits. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers.

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