Monday, September 16, 2013

Starkey Flythe Jr.

Photo credit: Matthew Buzzell

The literary community lost a major, award-winning, but (nevertheless) under-recognized fiction writer and poet on Friday, September 13, after an illness of several months.  Starkey Flythe, Jr., a native of Augusta, Georgia, was 78 at the time of his death.  His literary voice was completely original, wry, amused, aghast, and slightly melancholy.  His syntax was unique: he produced, in his poems, long run-on meditations, digressions, asides, associations; but readers never lost their way.  It was like jazz improvisation the way the central thread of melody somehow managed to be heard throughout.

Starkey published two collections of short stories: Lent: The Slow Fast, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, and Driving With Hand Controls, which won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award from Snake-Nation-Press.  His poems were published in three volumes: Paying the Anesthesiologist, They Say Dancing, and The Futile Lesson of Glue.  He said of his poems that they were "essentially about how things can't be put back together."  He had a gloomy, but endearing view of life that became his signature style, beloved in his work, and in his person, by a myriad of friends and fans.  Most recently, his poem "Greeks" was published in the August 8, 2011 edition of The New Yorker, and his characteristically titled poem, "Kathleen, locked in the bathroom" - possibly his last published poem - won the Constance E. Pultz Prize from the Poetry Society of South Carolina in 2012.

Starkey had a distinguished editorial career with the Curtis Publishing Company, managing Holiday and re-founding The Saturday Evening Post.  After he returned to Augusta in the early 1980s, he became a respected and important cultural leader in both Georgia and South Carolina. But his first commitment was always to his writing.  He wrote every day.  It was all he really wanted to do.

I wish I could tell you - I wish I could imagine - what the world will be like without him.