Ear­li­er this week, Cliff Graubart wrote about high­er edu­ca­tion and his father and Pat Con­roy. He has been blog­ging here for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing all week.

Car­ol Con­roy was brows­ing the poet­ry sec­tion when my par­ents Sig­mund and Frances walked in. They were vis­it­ing with me in Atlanta as they did every year on their way from Israel to the States. I intro­duced Car­ol to my folks and they sat in the cof­fee room of The Old New York Book Shop for a few min­utes get­ting to know each oth­er.

Now, I always joked with Pat Con­roy, my friend and Carol’s broth­er, about how much smarter Car­ol was than he. But when Car­ol came to the store a week lat­er and dropped 5 poems on my desk, I had proof after read­ing the first poem called The Jew­ish Fur­ri­er Tells How to Write Poetry.”

Cliff’s father was right.
He said: Sim­ple. You just do it.
You hold the ani­mal and pick your knife.
Courage it takes. The rest for­get.
But have the coat on the woman’s back,
not in your mind.
For instance the whis­tle.
You hold it in your throat
and send the air through the mouth’s toy.
Lips can be silver.

Sig­gy Graubart knows some­thing.
His advice is good.
It is as nat­ur­al as the swift intake of joy
in Megan’s smile,
the youngest niece,
when she cries dad­dy across the yard
and runs to kiss the mat­ted fur
of a father’s head, the poet.

I was stunned that Car­ol could glean so much from my father in so short a time. It was 1980, and Pat and I decid­ed that our new pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny (found­ed in 1978) would grow into poet­ry. We asked Car­ol to expand the 5 poems to 10 and we would pro­duce a book of poet­ry, and a few months lat­er The Jew­ish Fur­ri­er came out in a lim­it­ed edi­tion of 150 num­bered copies in gray boards and tan cloth spine on Hayle hand-made paper bound by hand at the Pama­mi Press in Dou­glasville, Geor­gia by Mike Riley.

I did not know then how sig­nif­i­cant that lit­tle book would become. Car­ol sub­mit­ted the work in a con­test con­nect­ed with Harp­er Lee and won a year’s res­i­dence at a Uni­ver­si­ty in Vir­ginia and a con­tract with W. W. Nor­ton for The Beau­ty Wars, her first reg­u­lar­ly pub­lished book.

In 1986, when Pat was going to press with The Prince of Tides, he had cre­at­ed Savan­nah,” a poet based on his sis­ter Car­ol, and incor­po­rat­ed a poem from The Jew­ish Fur­ri­er. Two days before going to press, Car­ol called Pat’s pub­lish­er demand­ing that the poem not be print­ed. She was unhap­py at being por­trayed in the book to begin with, and would not tol­er­ate the print­ing of her poem.

Pat had two days to re-write the poem, and the book was print­ed with The Jew­ish Fur­ri­er” as a dif­fer­ent poem.

Serendip­i­ty. Carol’s not Jew­ish. Pat’s not Jew­ish. Car­ol writes a book of poet­ry, about my Jew­ish father, which opens the door to her career as a poet. Pat writes The Prince of Tides, his break-through nov­el, which incor­po­rates her book, and has a strong Jew­ish com­po­nent in the Lowen­stein char­ac­ter, por­trayed by Bar­bra Streisand in the film ver­sion. Some­how, I found myself in the cen­ter of this cre­ativ­i­ty and expan­sion into Jew­ish themes so near to me, and loved it.

Cliff Graubart is the author of The Curi­ous Vision of Sam­my Levitt and Oth­er Sto­ries (Mer­cer Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012). Vis­it him online at www​.clif​f​graubart​.com.

Cliff Graubart was born and raised in NYC. He has boxed in the Tole­do Gold­en Gloves, sold furs in New York, and once para­chut­ed out of a per­fect­ly good air­plane in cel­e­bra­tion of his 40th birth­day — all mate­r­i­al for his short sto­ries, which have appeared in mag­a­zines. Atlanta-based Graubart owns the Old New York Book Shop.