Poet Chris Toll died on Sept. 27 at the age of 64.
By Bret McCabe (Baltimore City Paper, 10/10/2012)
On Sept. 27, 1905, the scientific journal Annalen der Physik received a paper from Albert Einstein that included the famous equation E=mc2. On Sept. 27, 1954, The Tonight Show featuring host Steve Allen debuted on NBC. On Sept. 27, 1964, the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy issued a report stating that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. On Sept. 27, 1997, the Mars Pathfinder probe sent its last transmission. And on Sept. 27, 2012, father, poet, and indelible human being Chris Toll died of natural causes in Baltimore. He was 64 years old.
Now, these events might appear a happenstance selection, united only by the coincidence of date. If there’s a thread that aligns them in the mythical time of cosmic consciousness, Toll would have seen it—and been able to express it in his heartbreaking, elegant economy. “My poem comes from far away/ and it’s going far away—,” he wrote in “This Is How We Make a Broken Heart,” published by the local ’zine Artichoke Haircut. “I’m just in the middle/ like a lonesome TV station/ with no employees.”
“Poetry has really been his life,” says Kate Pipkin, who met Toll in the early 1980s in a poetry class taught by Andrei Codrescu at the Maryland Writers’ Association. Toll had originally come to Baltimore in the early 1970s to enter Johns Hopkins University’s graduate writing program after graduating from Catholic University in 1970. His two sons, Joshua and Benjamin, were born and raised here. Toll blossomed into a stalwart presence in Baltimore’s literary community for the next four decades.
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