It's something of a cliché that artists dream of immortality through their work, but it's largely true nonetheless. One of the things I've learned is that this immortality is a versatile concept. In the wake of Michelle Greenblatt's painful, entirely-too-soon passing, we remember her extraordinary, moving work as a poet. That's one degree of immortality.
When we pass, we also live on through the people we connected to, the family and community that we built over the course of our lives. This is true of almost everyone. However, I would make a case that someone as remarkable as Michelle achieved this second degree of immortality on a far greater scale than most. As a writer and editor, she worked with hundreds of writers and other creative types. She inspired a number equal to the population of a small town. She championed expression and creativity on more levels than we will ever fully know.
Most of us aspire to leave something significant behind. Most of us get to do this. Artists have the opportunity to achieve this on the two levels I mentioned. To say that Michelle left behind a legacy of passion, integrity, and unwavering belief in the power of art would be an understatement. I didn't know Michelle as well as I should have. We both worked for Jonathan Penton at Unlikely for different stretches of time. We interacted on that level. What I always noticed about Michelle was her capacity for believing in what she was doing as a writer and editor. When you work for a literary magazine, that quality is essential. Tenacity is a must. You can ask Jonathan how much that tenacity and passion meant to him. You can read through these tributes, and take away a sense that her belief in Unlikely and in what she was doing touched thousands. I don't think that is an exaggeration in the least.
Michelle Greenblatt makes me grateful for what I do for a living. At the end of the day, this is not a career that generates considerable wealth and success. You have to look for inspirational intangibles that will keep you going, keep you optimistic, and keep you dreaming. Michelle was one of those intangibles. She was a fearless, beautiful example of the community that I have the unbelievable privilege of being a part of. I was lucky to witness her contributions to this community, which makes up a number great enough to start a second small town. She was unique in the absolute best way possible. If you hang around this creative beat long enough, you're going to meet every type imaginable under two or three real and fictional suns. The wastes and liars are legion, to be sure. However, when you meet the great ones, the mutants disappear into the unremarkable darkness they came from.
Was Michelle Greenblatt one of the great ones? You better believe it. My time with Jonathan Penton and Unlikely goes back almost twelve years. Through those things, I have had the fortune of meeting and working with more of the great ones than I ever had a right to connect with. Michelle occupies a seat at the table of the truly greats. My only personal sorrow since her passing is the fact that I didn't tell her so. Everything else running through my mind right now is geared towards the concept of celebration. This is because at the end of the day, as much as I wish she was still here, I have to remind myself of something very important.
I have to remember that the world is an immensely better place for her having been in it.
Remind the writers and artists in your life that what they do has value. Celebrate these people. Go to poetry readings. Buy books. Give someone a few bucks for their art. Michelle Greenblatt did this every day of her life. This is why her community mourns her. We are lucky to encounter people like her even once in a lifetime. Be that person in your own day to day existence. Fill the world with people who believe in what art is capable of. That is the legacy of Michelle Greenblatt. That is one of the ways in which you can make the world a better place, and do right by what she brought to humanity.
This is how Michelle Greenblatt will remain immortal.