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Mike Shannon & Billy Collins

Billy Collins, Mike Shannon, Janet and Cheryl playing strip poker.
Billy, Mike, Janet and Cheryl playing strip poker.
Diane joining the game at the table.
Diane joining the game at the table.
Billy Collins and Mike Shannon
Billy Collins and Mike Shannon
The Mid Atlantic Review, co-edited by Billy Collins, 1975
The Mid Atlantic Review, co-edited by Billy Collins, 1975
Mike Shannon, Movies For The Blind, Country Press, New York, 1976
Mike Shannon, Movies For The Blind, Country Press, New York, 1976

Email From Billy Collins

Friday, January 30, 2009

dear marc,

shannon died on christmas morning at home in his sleep. i dont know how much or little you know, but he was diagnosed with prostate cancer 14 years ago. he went through all kinds of treatment over the years and enjoyed free state-approved pot in cookie and cigarette form, but in november the doctors ran out of approaches and turned him over to hospice. i flew out that month and spent a few days with him. (tom baker came up and spent some time with him, too) michael and I had the usual laughs (no one made me laugh like shannon) but he was shutting down, bed-ridden, not a happy sight. he did rally a few times after that, ordering his favorite pirate movies. he was even caught reading the NY Review of Books. He had round the clock vigils from friends and gloria. he was never alone. the last few days, he clearly wanted to go. he left me a tibetan tanka and a simple japanese drawing of a moth. this month there was a small ceremony and his ashes were scattered.

please forward this to anyone he knew who would want to know.

all best regards,

billy

Things livened up considerably at 98 Bowery with the arrival in 1971 of Mike Shannon, another of our art friends from the University of California at Riverside. Combining a burly working-class swagger with a soft poetic soul, Mike was a lively addition to serious discussions and rowdy parties alike. In New York, he found work as an art handler for the famous Marlborough Gallery, and wrote poems about his adventures in the city’s bars and streets. Mike’s poetic side was inspired by Billy Collins, another friend from UCR, who in later years would become America’s Poet Laureate. With Mike living for long stretches at 98 Bowery, Billy was a frequent visitor who drove down from the small cottage he rented on an estate in Westchester. The Billy and Mike show was never dull. Usually fueled by prodigious amounts of alcohol, their madcap repartee included Lord Buckley imitations, choruses from Rolling Stones songs, and tales inspired by Charles Bukowski. The publication in 1975 of the first issue of the Mid-Atlantic Review, co-edited by Billy, was a celebratory event at the loft. For Shannon it was a fantasy come true, his first published poems alongside those by Collins and Bukowski! The following year, with Billy’s help, Mike had another triumph, the publication of Movies For The Blind, a full volume of his poems.