Page 4 - Jack Foley | The true litterateur
P. 4

Eventually,  the  family  bought  a  television  set  and  things  changed,  but

              Foley's  initial  experience  of  "media"  was  that  of  a  plethora  of  diverse,
              fascinating, disembodied voices that came to him with the switch of a dial.
              Later, like the poet Delmore Schwartz, he began to think of such voices as

              an emblem of the mind itself: multiple, contradictory, passionate.

              A good student, and with the aid of his local library, Foley read widely and
              soon found himself captive to the "singing prose" of Thomas Wolfe's Look
              Homeward, Angel. He had read novels but nothing with the fierce lyricism

              of Wolfe's poetic, highly "subjective" style: the novel as revelation of one's
              own being. He didn't know it, but Wolfe was drawing him into the world of
              poetry.  He  crossed  over  the  line  when  he  experienced  Thomas  Gray's

              "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1750). He had, partly because of
              his  father,  a  considerable  interest  in  songs  and  had  even  written  a  few,
              picking out chords on the guitar. In addition, a book of Cole Porter's lyrics
              had taught him a great deal about intelligent rhyming. But Gray's "Elegy"
              opened  a  world  to  him.  Suddenly,  there  was  his  mind  appearing  in  the

              words of an 18th-century Englishman. The poem revealed to him not only
              who  Thomas  Gray  was  but  who--and  what--Foley  himself  was.  It  was  at
              that point--he was fifteen years old--that he realized that, whatever else he

              was,  he  was  now  and  forever  a  poet.  If  he  lived  in  the  village  of  Port
              Chester, New York at 58 Prospect Street, that was one thing. He also lived
              in  a  world  of  words  which  opened  him  to  the  infinite  possibilities  that
              language  (which  is  what  you  do  with  your  langue,  your  tongue)

              represented.  He  was  at  the  service  of  an  art  that  transcended  his
              "individuality"  and  promised  him  a  life  of  endless  revelation.  The  only
              problem was how he could live that life and still eat. Two worlds.

              Foley's parents could not afford to send him to college but he surprised
              them  by  winning  scholarship  money  that  enabled  him  to  attend  first
              Cornell  University  in  Ithaca,  New  York,  and  then  The  University  of
              California at Berkeley. He met his wife Adelle while he was still attending

              Cornell, and they were married on December 21st, 1961 in Foley Square in
              New York City. Foley did not know it at the time, but the Square had been
              named  for  his  grandfather,  "Big  Tom"  Foley--a  wheel  in  the  city's
              Tammany Hall but from all evidence a good and kindly man. Foley Square

              is the site of the last bar his grandfather had owned. Foley's son, Sean,
              born  in  1974,  became  a  prominent  historian  and  revealed  to  his  father
           '  something of the family history.            4
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