Remembering Austin poet and musician Glen Alyn.
When Glen Alyn was asked to write a brief autobiography in 1999, he began it like this: "Glen Alyn was born on May 24, 1947, by the National Fish Hatchery on the Trinity River in Ft. Worth, Texas." There's a very particular reason the Austin poet and musician, who died on June 4 in a car wreck along with his 19-year-old daughter Sequoia Myers, decided to invite the Trinity River into his birth. For more than two months in 1968, Alyn rafted down the Mississippi River with a friend in an attempt to make what seems to be the longest water approach ever attempted to Dallas. "Sort of like being the fastest runner of the 100 yard dash with three toes," Alyn wrote in the autobiography. He recalled that adventure and his tour of duty in Vietnam in a book of poetry published in 1999, Huckleberry Minh: A Walk Through Dreamland.
But Alyn will most likely be remembered most vividly for his 20 years of work on I Say Me for a Parable: The Oral Autobiography of Mance Lipscomb, Texas Bluesman, which was written in dialect, phonetically, and eventually published by Norton in 1993. The book received the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Deems Taylor Award for Best Music Book of 1993 and the Austin Writers' League's Violet Crown Award for Best in Literary Category. "Glen was a very unique and eccentric kind of a character," his friend and fellow author William Browning Spencer says. "One time he gave me this novel to read -- it was still in manuscript -- and he said quite seriously that the first 100,000 words were kind of slow." By that point in their friendship, Spencer knew to expect that kind of statement from Alyn. "He wrote [I Say Me] in this phonetic spelling," Spencer recalls, "and all through that whole thing everyone was saying to him, including Pete Seeger who ... saw the galleys, 'Don't do this, don't do this. Don't write it in this dialect,' and the funny thing is when it came out it got some wonderful reviews and it also got some that said essentially that this was not a good thing to do. It was difficult to read and it was also maybe politically incorrect to be doing this. And what's funny about that is ... the only reason he did it that way was because he was afraid something would be lost on the page, and if you take the time to really read it, what he has managed to do -- it's a kind of extraordinary thing -- is actually capture the rhythm of Mance Lipscomb's speech and he did that because -- I think this was true of all of Glen's endeavors -- he was obsessed. ... It was basically his great strength and his great weakness." Alyn was a board member of the Austin Writers' League from 1997-98; memorials can be sent to the Austin Writers' League, 1501 W. Fifth, Ste. E-2, Austin, TX 78703, or to the Glen Alyn Archives, The Center for American History, Sid Richardson Hall 2101, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712.
News and Events
Literacy Austin raised an amazing $78,000 during last weekend's BookFest '00, a $15,000 increase over last year's BookFest (and an increase of $38,000 over the past 18 months)... On Friday, June 16 at 10am, Eklektikos host John Aielli will interview Janet Fitch, author of the critically acclaimed White Oleander, on KUT 90.5FM. Now out in paperback, the book tells the story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter. Fitch will be at BookPeople that evening at 7pm... On Thursday, June 22, at 1pm, David Sedaris will be on Eklektikos. He'll be at BookPeople that evening at 7pm.