Sunday, February 23, 2020

"TAE, DO YOU WANT TO BE IN MY POETRY CLUB?"

An email with the subject line above was both my invitation and introduction to Thomas Miller's poetry club. 

It arrived in May of 2010, with the body of the email simply containing that week's poem, along with the name of its author and what years they lived. After giving it a read, I responded with an excited yes, saying I'd love to. But I wasn't sure what joining entailed, and if it took place at some sort of gathering or if I'd need to be buying books to prepare. So when I asked Thomas about how to join, my second installment of Thomas Miller's poetry club came with this email subject line: "You don't have to do anything...you just get a poem every week...like this one." 

And until this year, those poems have continued to come. 

I first met Thomas because he worked with my best friend Judy. Thomas and Judy weren't just coworkers who became close friends after years of working together, but they had a genuine friendship and connection. I mean, let's not even talk about them being birthday twins. But because he and Judy were close, I was able to get to know Thomas pretty well throughout the years. 

Thomas was genuinely one of the sweetest people I know. He was kind, and a definite one of a kind. He was loved for his big heart and also known for his unique style. And on top of all that, he was really interesting with tons of knowledge about art and whatever fine cultural events were happening in the city. On almost every day of the week, you could find Thomas out at an exhibit or sitting in the audience of some gorgeous production. Even the last time we hung out one-on-one was to watch ballet at Lincoln Center last year, which was my first time ever doing so. He loved anything that celebrated both the visual and performing arts and once told me he's "obsessed with looking at beautiful things." And this wasn't just for when he was outside his house.

Some years ago, a tough transitional phase of mine had me going through a long period of couch crashing. When Thomas heard about this through Judy, he generously offered to let me stay in his spare bedroom for a few months as I got back on my feet. Thomas had been living in his place since the 80s, so stepping inside his home was a deep immersion in who he was. Practically every inch and corner was decorated with some item. The spare bedroom I slept in was filled with things as well, from eccentricities I couldn't stop staring at to shelves of books and delicate figurines. And because there was no Internet connection in that room, a small analog tv near the bed was what I usually used to break the silence as I admired my surroundings. Being there in his home with all of the things he loved comforted me in a way. I was so used to living out of a suitcase with minimal belongings, and that's why Thomas' place was a great reminder in the serenity that can come from a home with stuff that brings you joy.

Sadly, Thomas passed away last weekend. His funeral was yesterday, and I was grateful to be able to go and say my goodbyes. You can read his obituary here, and also a recent article about him here. And as for Thomas' poetry club, while they became less frequent in the past few years, he had kept up sending out his poems since he first signed me up a decade ago. The final poem Thomas ever sent was on January 5th of this year.

While going through old photos to look for ones with Thomas, I found the following ones below I took at a work dinner of his, Judy's and their colleagues. This night is from exactly ten years ago in February of 2010.

Rest in peace, Thomas. You were a light to many.
Thomas Miller (1958-2020)











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