Among the full house at Nigel Maister’s reading of Horatio last Monday evening was Al Kremer, a gentleman who introduced himself to me as a former student of Hyam Plutzik. I asked him to write us, to share a memory of Plutzik as a teacher; here is his letter.
I thank you for the opportunity to tell you about being Mr. Plutzik’s student and hearing him read Horatio. I can hear him now:
I come from the court. I am Horatio
“A pleasant lie! I know you. You’re a scholar
I roared with laughter. He didn’t stop but before he went on I think his eyes caught mine nodding approvingly. Or at least that is what I like to think. I can’t be sure because it was a long time ago; the fall term 1960. He was teaching Modern Poetry. I now realize that I was probably in the last or second last course he would ever teach.
Horatio hadn’t yet been published; he was reading it from his manuscript. I had never heard a poet read his poetry before. It was unforgettable and I was utterly blown away. As I write I can still literally see him as he read from “The Ostler.” He had repeatedly said, and rightly so, poetry was a form of music and only truly appreciated when read out loud.
I was 21. After a break I had returned to the U of R to get my undergraduate degree after several years of Army service. I had gotten out of the Army one heartbeat before the Vietnam War began in full. My fellow officers who had remained in the service were being sent there as “advisors.” I knew because there were so few of them that during this same fall semester when they fell, their deaths would be reported in the New York Times. Had I stayed in…
I had wondered why I had left the U of R, why I had come back, and what life was all about. Looking back, although I didn’t realize it then, and wouldn’t do so for many years, Horatio was more than the tale of a friend trying to set his late friend’s reputation straight and tell the world who he really was. Horatio was about the essence of living life, positively. As I listened it seemed that Mr. Plutzik was saying that the point wasn’t whether Horatio would ever be able to persuade anyone that they were wrong about Hamlet, but that Hamlet had been his friend and he would keep trying. Life was about friendship, commitment, learning to keep an open mind, having ideals and speaking out for what is right. Writing poetry is about civilization and art and not about war.
What a marvelous lesson for a 21 year old kid. I have never forgotten him.
Bard Nigel Maister is to be thanked. I am extremely grateful that he sang for us. As I told him after his reading, he worked magic freeing Horatio from the pages of the book, bringing him into the Welles-Brown Room.
We welcome memories of Plutzik or commentaries on his work, which can be submitted by email. Please note that pieces may be edited before posting.–P.W.