James Baker Hall (generally known to his students as Jim) was many things. As a prose writer, he was a classmate of Peter S. Beagle, Larry McMurtry, and Ken Kesey at the Stanford Writing Workshop. As a poet, he published multiple volumes and was Kentucky’s first poet laureate. As an experimental filmmaker, he received notice for his work in 8mm film. As a teacher, he was my supporter, mentor, writing guru, and friend. He died in 2009, the same week that I buried my parents — another shock in a terrible week.
But as we all hope, the work lasts. The University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital is hosting an exhibition of Jim’s photography. It ranges from the straightforward to the oneiric, and there is an accompanying book.
A few months ago, I told a fellow creative type that all we do is try to scratch something on the wall that says we were here, and we hope someone notices the marks we left before they are eroded by time. For a while at least, Jim’s marks will be on the wall and seen by many people, and even if he’s only been gone a bit less than five years, that gladdens me.