Tall and sinewy, he’s standing at the front of the ornate All Saints’ Chapel, looking up from his text with a kind of up-from-under glance to the crowded rows before him. I’d come in the years ahead to recognize that particular look, a wry mix of mischief and seriousness—how is that possible, I’d often wonder. And the lilt and music in his voice might be the wonderfully resonant Tennessee drawl of the man he’s eulogizing, my friend and mentor Peter Taylor.
I’d never met Wyatt Prunty before that moment, some twenty-five years ago, though his reputation as a superb poet was already well-known to me. Indeed, I’d never laid eyes on Sewanee before—an almost-eerie twin of my own Kenyon College and just about as remote. Peter, who’d come to Kenyon in the 1930s to study with John Crowe Ransom, had spoken to me often of his love for Sewanee—and especially for owning one house after another in that charming village—and it figures under various pseudonyms in many of his stories. But here I came, on pilgrimage as it were, representing Kenyon at Peter’s funeral, a sad and yet joyful occasion.