Byron Dobell is a beloved friend, and lifelong teacher; I was his editorial servant at Esquire magazine, and after kicking up a fuss about being asked to go buy pencils for him (this being 1977--meaning, we used red pencils to edit, and young women to fetch things) I settled in happily at his side. We've been friends ever since, and I am still learning from him. Byron paints portraits, landscapes, botanicals, and writes poems. And reads, all the time. Happy 85th Birthday, dear Byron.

Here is a recent Dobell poem, one of my favorites, with his commentary: "The poem was inspired by an afternoon stroll in Central Park with a friend who was able to identify every tree we passed. I felt ashamed that I was so ignorant of the common names of the natural world and this is the result. In an odd way it wound up sounding like a personal ad seeking a girlfriend. And if it serves that purpose, so much the better."

May you find true love, dear Byron--and never forget that you are truly loved by so many.


Myself not knowing kinds of flowers,
Birds, trees, specific bowers,
Larks from larkspur, oak from oakum,
Resigned to cultivating hokum
And planting wrongly labeled shrubs
In improvised and leaky tubs;
A stranger in the Crystal Palace,
I seek a down-to-nature Alice
Who'll be my muse, my learned dove
And name the nameless world I love.

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