Arts December 19, 2019
Easy Writer
Actor Scott Glenn and the poet rising from within

 

Scott Glenn is a lot of things: lauded actor, Idaho deputy, Lamaze coach, Marine, hero to three drowning children, father of two, grandfather of four, husband to a “fabulous girlfriend” of 55 years, 80, ice climber, former crime reporter, scarred from being gored by a 1,800-pound bull, fire-damaged, tightrope walker, honorary member of the Ifugao tribe, English major by way of William and Mary College, flattened by the President’s current position on the Kurds, an advocate for public school teachers, a distant relative of (or at least a groupie to) the poet Lord Byron, inspired dinner host of Jewish Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, from a functional family whose parents truly loved one another.

All, he said, because of what should have been a fatal bout of scarlet fever that left him in a dark room with nothing but his imagination for a year at age 9.

“The best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. The limp and the weakness he emerged with made him “determined not to live a ‘Walter Mitty’ life.”

Mitty, the meek bumbler fictional character, couldn’t have conjured the life Glenn has lived.

Countless articles cite his exploits and experiences. His performances in movies like “The Right Stuff,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Silverado,” and “Backdraft” are heralded for his growling authenticity and lithe character immersions.

What is less known is the existence of poems, “scribbled on planes and movie sets, in hotel rooms, up a backcountry canyon next to a dead elk,” Glenn penned to his bride over the last five decades.

“I’ve always written to Carol,” Glenn said over tea in his wife’s potter’s studio in their Gimlet home, recently. “I don’t give things conditionally, they are hers.”

“I had a drawer and every year I would save Scott’s writing in plastic,” Carol said. “I always thought these are very good. So, without asking Scott, I turned them over to Karen.”

Glenn oft says, “My great fortune in life, when I wanted to learn something, the best person in the world to teach me appeared in front of me.”

For this production, local editor Karen Oswalt is that guide. Oswalt, graphic designer Drew Furlong, and his photographer wife, Kirsten Shultz, coaxed the self-titled “Carol Glenn” photo book about the coveted ceramacist’s work a few years earlier.

“‘Scott,’ Karen said, ‘You remind me of W.S. Merwin,’” Glenn recalled. “She had me right there.”

The result is a series of poems interspersed with photos of Carol at work. It’s a celebration of romancing her the whole time of their lives together.

With “Room Service, Poems for Carol,” Glenn has proved he’s tough enough to weaken you with words.
The poems range from the lusty to the near divine.

 

Driving home

 

It happened again

Rolling out of Ely

Rubber and black top

Singing in the dark

That jolt of chill

Like an ice-arrow

Flying up through

The core of my spine

And burying itself

In the nape of my neck

Fear snapping my eyes open and

Locking my ankle

At eighty miles an hour

Not fast enough

To get stopped out here.

 

It happened again

Face to face with

How much I need you

How clearly you define

This map I travel

How tender

How savage.

Driving home.

 

And just like watching him press his recently-released-from-prison denim against newlywed cowgirl rebel Debra Winger in “Urban Cowboy,” readers will have to surrender to the fantasy. All roads, and lines of lust and love, lead back to his beloved Carol.

Glenn said he is just getting back to his promise, pre-illness, to become the next Lord Byron, related or not. Back to the child who loved flowers and poetry.

“Poetry, for me, is like trying to remember when I learned to shoot a rifle. It’s so far in the past it is instinct.”

It’s perhaps the most jarring performance yet, this one stepping out from the privacy of home and taking center stage.

“I’ve got no secrets about acting. I’ll tell you everything.” Glenn said. “The poems, once they are out there, I don’t want to tell you how they are done, or supposed to be read.

“My poems have spoken to me: ‘You can talk about us and play with us and edit us, but when it’s time to publish us, it’s between us and who reads it.’”

Acting is still his core, but it’s clear he’s chasing other muses more right now. He’s already got a second collection in front of Oswalt titled “The Friction Zone,” a metaphoric term for slipping the clutch. “Are you in gear or out, and to what extent can you live in that zone?” Glenn explained.

His Indian motorcycle is one of the “Silly Things” he writes about, which exists “for pure fun.” Shultz thrilled him by offering to shoot him on it for this article.

Still, Glenn admits there is one grail he hasn’t been able to glean.

“The prevailing wish is that just once I get to belt out ‘Mustang Sally’ and have it sound like Wilson Picket.”

 

Sneak Peek

Weekend Sunset

If you’re gonna

Have nostalgia,

make it for the future

Winds of time

Blow down

Last of the white, picket, fences

Sent there in pieces

Through

Stain glass windows

Canvas tents

Piercing the tongues

Of priests and reverends

Rabbis and Mullas

Fathers who

Never knew best

— Scott Glenn, from the upcoming collection “The Friction Zone”

This article appears in the Winter 2019 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.