I first saw Rob Wipond on stage. He was lithe and he had a hugely expressive face: expansive mouth, actor’s eyes, and a haircut I’ve only ever seen in the 21st Century on the head of Weird Al Yankovich. And when he recited, it was the roar of a challenge. The young always take on The Man, and for most of us then, that meant a corporation or a government or the administration of the university – easy targets to hit – but not Rob. Rob hurled it out, fists in the air, body bending like a dancer’s: “Break Down the Establishment … of Rock and Roll!” And by the end of it, Rock looked bloated, out of touch with its outcast roots and grown too used to its own hard-earned, easy life. It was excoriating and beautiful. After Rob came off the stage, Ian David Arlett, as big from the stage as anyone I’d seen, bowed to him as to a prince. I’ve stayed in touch with Rob, on and off, ever since. Our current conversation began when I had a student who reminded me of him, the first such person I’d met in the over 30 years, and I wanted some advice on how to help my student keep that fire in him alive in a world that does its best to dowse such human fires. Rob is much more the journalist now, taking his insights to articles and videos – check these out (robwipond.com or Rob Wipond on YouTube) – and you’ll experience there that same voice I heard 40 years ago: full of the satirist’s love for humanity mixed with sadness at its tragic failings, channeled, as in all great poets, into pushing the language as far as it will go.

Richard Harrison, Sept, 2014

 

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