Saturday, September 03, 2005

Richard Morris Admiration Society

Richard Morris died in San Francisco 28 August 2003. He was 64. He was widely admired in the small world of alternative presses and daring websites. A witty poet, Richard was the publisher of Camels Coming Press and, more famously and most helpfully, the executive director of COSMEP. The acronym stood for different things in different years but it remained substantially a Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers. Richard edited an invaluable monthly newsletter and answered every query by return mail. I remember him presiding over one meeting smoking a pipe.

Richard was a hard-working writer. Over thirty years we averaged a letter a week. To get the writing going he drank tea. To go to sleep, to kill the jitters, he drank red wine. He was a wine expert. He was also, for instance, a ranked chess player. But he had no teeth. He had been in an automobile accident in the course of a week-long marriage. He had no teeth and many scars.

And then one day the doctor told him he had cirrhosis. And so Richard drank much less wine. When he stayed at my apartment, I made the mistake of saying, yes, he could smoke. When I returned ten days later, there were donuts in the fridge, fancy wine on the counter, and smoke everywhere.

Oh yes he told me about Viagra and, by the way, he was sure glad that whole silly occasional impotence thing was behind him. But then he got a cat-scan for that long-term stomach ache, for that damn cirrhosis, but this time it was abdominal cancer, and soon the cancer was everywhere, in five places, including the esophagus.

Beginning in 1979, Richard became known in the wider world as the author of a series of science books. He had a public. These texts were translated and published to good sales in dozens of countries. His royalties would range from a few pennies from Brazil to many thousands of dollars from Japan. But he continued publishing small-press chapbooks of poetry and drama read mostly by his friends and peers. His first posthumous book, called The Last Sorcerers, followed his death by a few months. Paracelsus was his favorite sorcerer.


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