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Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti
Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti
Published by YellowJester
09-05-2008
Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

On September 4, Thomas Wiloch collapsed at his home and died from a probable heart attack. Among other laudatory things that could be said of Tom is that he was a great artist of the prose poem. He was in fact one of the greatest the literary world has known, even if that world did not know it. Perhaps someday it will.

Tom and I worked in different departments at the same publishing company in Detroit (and later elsewhere). We first met in 1980 at a Xerox machine where I was photocopying a collection of obscure ghost stories. Tom showed up with a book by Lord Dunsany that he wanted to copy. (Both of us prodigiously abused the facilities of the company where we worked.) On the spot we became friends. Not long after, we began exchanging and critiquing each otherís unpublished manuscripts and continued to do so for over twenty years. Anyone who has enjoyed my story ďNotes on the Writing of Horror: A StoryĒ can thank Tom for getting me to rewrite the ending.

In addition to being a two-man creative writing group on company time, we engaged in literally thousands of conversations that most often ended in riotous laughter. Tomís depth of wit is entwined in much of his writing (see Mr. Templetonís Toyshop.) So is his depth of emotion, his intelligence, and that tincture of chaos that made him Thomas Wiloch and not someone else.

Not too long ago, I was asked to contribute to The Book of Lists: Horror. My list was that of the ten best horror poems or collections of all time. I submitted my choices in inverse order, from number ten to number one. Here is my number one pick.

Paper Mask by Thomas Wiloch. This is but one, almost arbitrarily chosen, collection among the numerous volumes of prose poems by Wiloch. He is the best at what he does, and what he does is seduce his readers into a world of quiet apocalypses, bitter ecstasies, and tiny derangements. While the prose poem form is compact by its nature, Wilochís imagination is vast with sinister conceits.

The Book of Lists: Horror is scheduled to be released on September 18 of this year. After I moved out of Michigan, I had not been in touch with Tom for some years. I thought I would send him a copy of the book in which I wrote the words above by way of saying hello again and perhaps getting into an exchange about how the universe has deteriorated since we last spoke. Now that Tom is gone, the universe has deteriorated a little more.

The following prose poem is taken from Tomís 1989 collection The Mannikin Cypher. It is not so much representative of his work as it is appropriate to the occasion.
                              The Now Is Fragile

There is no childhood, except in our memories, and
there is no super man, except in our dreams.
      All is memory and imagination. We remember a past
now gone; we imagine a future we will never see.
            The now is fragile.
            We sit before a sheet of blank paper. We lift a pencil.
We charge this white pulp with meaning.
To read more about Tom and his work, see his Web site and the Wikipedia
Thomas_wiloch Thomas_wiloch
on him.
23 Thanks From:
1kgGehacktesBitte (09-06-2008), Aetherwing (09-05-2008), Andrea Bonazzi (09-07-2008), bendk (09-06-2008), Bleak&Icy (09-05-2008), candy (09-06-2008), Cyril Tourneur (09-06-2008), Daisy (09-07-2008), Derteufel (09-07-2008), Dr. Locrian (12-16-2013), Dr. Valzer (09-24-2008), forleten_forloren (09-07-2008), G. S. Carnivals (09-05-2008), gorelets (09-15-2008), gveranon (09-06-2008), hopfrog (01-05-2009), Jezetha (09-05-2008), Joe Pulver (05-01-2009), Mr. D. (09-07-2008), simon p. murphy (09-07-2008), The New Nonsense (09-06-2008), the_havoc_man (09-07-2008), yellowish haze (09-05-2008)
  #1  
By yellowish haze on 09-05-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

This is an enormous loss. I greatly enjoyed the last three volumes of prose poems by Thomas Wiloch. He was a brilliant writer. I'm shocked and saddened by this news.
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  #2  
By barrywood on 09-05-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

I'm saddened and touched by Tom Ligotti's words.
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  #3  
By The Silent One on 09-06-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

It is painful to think that not merely a brilliant writer, but such a seemingly wonderful person is no longer among us. Another small blow to a shambling world.
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  #4  
By Derteufel on 09-06-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

Thomas Wiloch's work never fails to cast a potent spell. Whatever plane his spirit now inhabits has gained a brilliant poet.
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  #5  
By The New Nonsense on 09-06-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

This is terribly sad news....... Wiloch's dark wit will be greatly missed. It's rare for a poet to be simultaneously bleak AND somewhat playful -- tongue-in-cheek, yet dripping with menace.
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  #6  
By Laffo on 09-07-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

Tom Wiloch authored some of the most fiercely powerful prose I've ever read, to my mind singlehandedly rescuing the genre "prose poetry" from being completely written off as academic bull####. Reading his work leaves me awestruck and jealous. Never exactly "readily available," I imagine his books will now be nearly impossible to find. I highly recommend that you get them while you can.

He was also a genuinely wonderful person. I spent a number of years working with him in a place that crushed the spirits of many, and yet I don't remember ever seeing him in a bad mood. He always found a way to make himself and others laugh, even (or especially) when things were falling apart around us.

I miss him already.
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  #7  
By Alligator Gar on 09-07-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

One's body is one's best disguise. Wiloch was a big silver-haired man who always smiled. Who would have known the man had so much blood in him? Catch him alone in the echoing corridors of a decayed skyscraper, on an abandoned floor, in the darkness of a boarded-up office--you'll see the razor blade clenched in those sharp teeth.
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  #8  
By the_havoc_man on 09-07-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

This is sad news. I was not aware of this but, I can't wait to read Wiloch's work.
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  #9  
By gorelets on 09-14-2008
Re: Thomas Wiloch 1953-2008: A Personal Tribute by Thomas Ligotti

Just heard the news... I love Wiloch's writing and would also include him in any list of the top prose poets of the genre, ever. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful memory about the copy machine encounter and the following tribute. The final poem is deeply moving.

-- Mike Arnzen
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