I always thought that poet and author Bill Hotchkiss deserved way more recognition than he got. In fact, even though I’d been in touch with him just months before his death, I had no idea that he had died until recently — though I was beginning to suspect something was wrong.
We did not know each other well at all. We’d had a few emails years ago, and then more in December 2009, when he sent me an autobiography and some manuscripts for possible publication at Moon Willow Press.
I found out much later I hadn’t gotten more response because he died last May 8, 2010, of a heart attack and stroke.
According to Poet’s Musings, he preferred red wine. That is my favorite too, so I will lift a glass.
I first came across Hotchkiss’s writings around 1990, when I found his novel Dance of the Coyote at Purdue University’s undergrad library. To date, it is up there in my top favorite novels ever, and I’ve read it several times throughout the years. That one book deeply inspired the nature of Moon Willow Press and my love for preserving the wild. A few years ago, I wrote an article about coyote killing, along with Nancy Zierenberg, who at that time was the Executive Director of the Wildlife Damage Review, which sought to bring an end to government wildlife killing, something Bill was also very passionate about.
Mr. Hotchkiss said in a letter to me last December 2010:
I couldn’t have been more pleased than to receive your beautiful letter tonight. And your www.moonwillowpress.com: a wholly admirable project, would seem designed to occupy you for the rest of your days.
There’s a magic in the printed word. I don’t think anyone understands it. But anyone who’s been touched by it knows.
Twenty years ago I shifted directions-took over for William Everson / Brother Antoninus after his death-as his literary executor. That broke most of my contacts in the Big Press world. I continued as a college teacher, and I continued writing as well-both poetry and fiction-and from time to time memoirs and criticism. I edited a few more editions of SIERRA JOURNAL. With time beginning to run out, I suppose I was attempting to do everything at once.
I have perhaps ten or eleven novels finished, unpublished. And several volumes of poetry.
He sent a couple manuscripts, including an autobiography, but then I didn’t hear much more from him. Finally I realized he had passed away. As you can see, Mr. Hotchkiss was an extremely kind man, a teacher, a mentor, one loved by many — a husband, father, and grandfather. I hope that someday the executor of his estate publishes his unpublished works — they are truly meant to be read and accepted world-wide.
Hotchkiss’s novels include: Fever in the Earth, Medicine Calf, Soldier Wolf, Ammahabas, Spirit Mountain, Mountain Lamb, People of the Sacred Oak, Fire Woman, Dance of the Coyote, To Fell the Giants, Sierra Santa Cruz, and Yosemite.
He also wrote Jeffers: The Sivaistic Vision.