Saturday, August 10, 2019


Yesterday afternoon, I received a sad message from Susan Entsminger about Gary Entsminger, my publisher/ editor/ and cherished friend of Pinyon Publishing who published Chant of Death, a mystery I co-wrote with Isabel Anders of Sewanee, TN, as well as many of my poems in Pinyon Review. Although Gary had written to me several weeks ago about the blood clots in his lungs and explained that he planned to recover, I was stunned to learn that he had died. Gary wasn’t just an editor/publisher to me, he had become a close friend, and through email we had developed a relationship that, for lack of a better phrase, made us soul mates. It was and still is a spiritual friendship that covered eleven short years, and he, along with one other male poet, is probably the outstanding mentor in my life. I came to know him through long emails, the books, and collages of photographs he sent me throughout the years, and through his constant endorsement of my work. I never met him in person or heard his voice, but he was among several voices I heard every time I sat down to write. Susan took the photographs in this blog that show him climbing peaks in the Colorado Rocky Mountains near the plateau where he and Susan set up publishing headquarters in a log cabin and lived an intentional life of sustainability.

During the early hours of this morning, I kept trying to write a tribute to Gary in my mind, but I have had a difficult time imagining that he is no longer alive. When I went into the dining room for breakfast, I asked Victoria Sullivan (another writer Gary published. His wife Susan rendered the drawings for Vickie’s Why Water Plants Don’t Drown) to find the photographs of him on my computer. Needless to say, Gary’s spirit has a large place in this household. While we mourn his death, we were comforted last night by a message from Darrell Bourque who said, “I know his eternal energy is working its way to Right Source and I know that some of it is coming to you… as you grieve his passing.” 

Language seems to fail me this morning, so I defer to a prose poem I wrote about Gary in 2012, the title of which is the title of this blog and which appeared in a book of my poetry entitled Everything Is Blue:

Among my papers I find two cards, embellished photographs of a book cover: a yellowed parchment bearing ancient chants bordered by stains of spilled blood; cards that record a happier time, your good intent to make me a ‘brand,’ a recognized author of mysteries.

For nearly three years you have nurtured me, a poet on this stony mountain still searching for metaphor and mood after a lifetime, unrecognized in the mist of once known -- becoming known again, becoming read again…

You stalk my words with good intention, urging me to love the lines I write, assurances to a broken winged writer lying under the hemlock now wrapped in arms of unrelenting trust.

I lie down at night, pondering new blessings: my poems you have published, my “essays” you carefully read. A man who reads everything, you always find the something others fail to notice, raising your glass to say “Cheers” for the poet who fears she is lost, the hungry fox who is a writer.

In the winter, you toast with IPA, in the summer, you sip chardonnay. Language is your red hot salsa, wit and perfection part of your garden, you imagine a parable in each season and what you shall make of this tomato, this berry, brought in from the sun, anthems soon rising from the steaming pot.

You write of hauling barrels of water for Susan’s plateau garden, of hiking 12,000 foot peaks in one morning, send me photographs of a bearded man with ascetic brow, standing on a lonely trail alongside a black Lab facing a meadow leading to the unknown.

Every scene is a fragment of the larger picture: making books that balance readers’ spirits, the lion man who knows that plants will sprout and grow, each seedling harvested, a moment given over to creation, sturdy and useful.

I hold you in my skull as an idea that scorns danger, your will arguing fiercely against the thing we writers most fear… that our words will not matter, that our language will not last.

Gary was a poet (Four Ravens and Two Miles West), a publisher, naturalist, computer programmer, has written nine programming books; over 100 scientific and technical articles; and computer software that helps scientists understand patterns of biodiversity and biogeography. With his wife Susan, he wrote Fall of ’33, Ophelia’s Ghost, and Remembering the Parables, books that integrate fiction, philosophy, history, poetry, and art. He was also a musician and music composer (guitar, mandolin, keyboard), writing tunes like "If the Birds Spoke to Us." 

Gary nurtured writers scattered throughout the U.S. and abroad (especially Chinese poets) and was an authentic Renaissance man. Although he called himself a “Luddite,” he remained on the cutting edge of the arts as evidenced in Pinyon Review, a journal celebrating the arts and sciences that he established in 2012. He was featured in many of my past blog posts on “A Words Worth” ( Follow the links to purchase his books at Pinyon Publishing (23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403). Several interviews with Gary appear on the Pinyon Publishing website. 

Here is one of my favorites among Gary’s poetry in Four Ravens. It’s entitled “Yew:”

“No one knew
how the yew
survived so long

generating roots
branches strong
some said —mystical

from those places
where poets rhymed
with old magicians

where birds entwine
in branches
singing of immortality”

Rest in peace, Gary Entsminger, let light perpetual shine upon you. 

Love, Diane

1 comment:

Margaret Simon said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I understand how special those writing relationships are, even if you never met. He's in your heart. This is a lovely tribute. Prayers for peace.