Tom Fallon with Layla. phMarianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times Buy this Photo

Reporter’s note: It seemed like a natural request and difficult to turn down. When I approached Rumford resident Tom Fallon and asked if he would be the focus of a Face Time interview, he agreed, but later asked if he could write his own introduction to the question-and-answer format. Given his lifelong interest in the written word, and his depth of experience, the newspaper agreed. He has written it in the third person point of view. — Marianne Hutchinson

Nearing the end of his life 83-yearold, Tom Fallon lives alone in Rumford with his beagle Layla intending to create, write, until the last day of his life.  

Fallon classifies himself as a word creator, with prose, poetry, free verse and anti-poetry directions, a retired Rumford paper millworker of 32 years. His writing varies from poetry and free-verse to what he describes as “off the wall experiment and innovation in style.”    

In his past, he was poetry editor for The Maine Times, a popular newspaper critical of Maine politicians and a supporter of the natural environment that ended in 1999. He drew cartoons when in Stephens High School for the Rumford Falls Times and later wrote a column titled Sounding for the newspaper

He was first published by Red Dust of New York City, subsequently, he published several books of his writing including the “poetry and antipoetry” book titled “Now” and his short story “Holding,” a paper mill story, published in “Salt and Pines: Tales from Bygone Maine.” A dramatic trilogy, “A Dying Animal,” was staged in Boston by the Atma Players in 1976.  

Fallon was active in the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance as a member of the board of directors when the organization was a hotbed of activity in the ’70s with Bern Porter, Mark Melnicove, Constance Hunting, Lee Sharkey and others. His literary direction has been influenced by early 20th century art, New York off-off-Broadway theater of the ’70s, jazz, modern classical music, innovative American poets of the 20th century as well as the more radical avant-garde writers.    

His web page is at tomfallon.net.    

Name: Tom Fallon

Hometown: Rumford

Occupation: Word creator

This summer you had your word creations presented on four displays in front of your home. What were a couple of the titles and what were your hopes for the displays? Poetry has been displayed in subways and buses in New York City and other cities for some time. The hope is such public presentation will open people to the value of literature. So my street displays of word creations was not a new concept. All of the word creations I presented were related to Maine: Mount Katahdin, Pennacook Falls in Rumford, snow fall, Smith Crossing in Rumford and my wife. 

On your webpage tomfallon.net you list your work as free verse, anti-poetry, word creation, and experiment form. What is anti-poetry and word creation? Experiment and innovation are obviously problem-solving directions of our time. This began in the late 19th century and changed human society and art. I experiment and innovate with literary form presenting anti-poetry, word creation, the way visual artists, dancers and other artists today experiment with their form. Prominent 20th century writers in America and around the world supported this innovative direction. Last — I love the freedom and joy of experiment and innovation with literary form — I love that creative freedom! 

Who are you writing about in your poem, “My Funny Valentine”? What is the poem’s meaning? 

My Funny Valentine 

Miles and miles ahead
with a piercing cry
from the gold horn.
Black face painted blue,
blue, and bloodied red. 

Racism was alive and well in 1960s America when the Miles Davis Quintet presented My Funny Valentine in NYC in 1964. Herbie Hancock began with a slow blues intro on the piano and then Miles turned his trumpet into a cry of pain never heard before in jazz. Art, jazz, a man of color, Miles Davis transcended hate in America on that night with his genius as the Rev. Martin Luther King was also trying to transcend hate at that time in the streets of America. 

Your word creation “Death is near” is obviously about death and you write “thinking of van Gogh” beneath the title. Are you referring to the death of your wife, Jacqueline, who died in 2012? 

Death is near

Read wording slowly, with intensity, thinking of Vincent Van Gogh 

I will burn these white birches,

into my mind:

I will burn the birds’ piping song,

into my mind:

I will burn these moving white clouds,

into my mind:

I will burn her orange and freckled face,

deep into my mind:

For death is near.   Death is coming.

“Death is Near” is a word creation, not a poem. I use a technique of wide-spaced lines to encourage slow reading. Second, the subject of our death, our holding to life, is very intense, so a person alone, or publicly, should read slowly with intensity thinking of Vincent van Gogh to gain the truth, the reality, the life, in the word creation. Yes, it does relate to the death of my wife.

In what ways has your writing changed throughout the years and are you currently writing? If so, what’s your favorite style or form of work now? Since I was exposed to modern art when young I’ve favored experiment and innovation in literary form. I’ve never written strict poetry forms. While I value free innovation there are times when it will not communicate well. I then create with little innovation or write poetry. Some of my favorite works are not “off the wall” with experiment and innovation, but short in form and easily understood. I am now writing a three-part work not radically innovative in form after working for a year in a very radical direction.

You’ve said that working at the paper mill in Rumford before you retired in 1978 helped you. In what ways did it help you? Working in the paper mill kept me real, a human being. No day could I feel I was above other human beings because I could create, write. I was accepted as a co-worker and was very happy with that. The majority of the people I worked with were very good people. I was also involved in the labor union, a newsletter writer for presidents, using my writing practically. After work, I wrote — but there were five daughters at home who also kept me real…! I am a human being.

Word creator, writer and poet Tom Fallon stands outside of his Rumford home with his word displays this summer. Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson


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