Mick Vranich: 1946-2010

“One of the original hero working-class poets from the early days of Detroit’s hip, contemporary poetry scene,” fellow poet M.L. Liebler wrote in a Wednesday morning e-mail of Mick Vranich, who passed away the following night. Vranich had taken a serious fall on a construction site in February, suffering a head injury, a punctured lung and two broken vertebrae (leading to at least one benefit to raise funds to help him and wife). Presumably, his more recent surgery was related to that. A note we received from artist Bob Sestok said that “following an operation, his lungs began to bleed and nothing could be done.” Other notes put the time at 9 p.m., the manner as “peacefully.”

Vranich was a rock ’n’ roll poet who knew how to swathe his words in electric guitar shimmers, or send them skittering ahead of a big beat. But strip away the sounds of the instruments and there was the sound of the words that also worked alone. And in addition to poetry and music, he was an arts activist in myriad ways, including running a private gallery space, Alley Culture, with his wife, Sherry Hendrick.

Here’s some of what Norene Smith (then Norene Cashen) had to say here in Metro Times in 1999 about his book Saw Horse:

In the final section of the book, “Nails,” “papers pile up to no consequence/like the pile of branches/to sleep on no electric force” (“The Authorities”), where the poet struggles with the terminal art of crafting. The invisible surveillance of internal voices against the need to resist outside forces — real or perceived — creeps out of “Dawn Patrol,” which finds nature and the man-made tangled yet again. It rises to articulate the writer’s burden of too many possibilities: “i end up just sitting here staring/out the window watching the leaves/grow the rain clouds roll in the/thunder head explodes with ragged/lightning bolts the darkness falls/the sirens wail somewhere in the/distance not too near like the gun.”

And here’s more of what Liebler had to say:

He was a true innovator of performance poetry in our city. I was always amazed at how he would perform his poems with musicians and play lead guitar at the same time. Mick Vranich was one of the important building blocks in the foundation of what we now refer to as “Detroit poetry.” We will always love and respect him for all he gave to this community through his talent and creative treasures. Mick loved this city with all his heart and soul.

And this is how Smith’s review concluded:

Saw Horse strikes with deep feeling, but most interestingly it possesses dimension. Vranich’s delicate plays on words move as two-way hinges, folding one idea upon another in multiple meanings. In the same way, “Nails” drives through and holds layers in place: the thought, the expression, the poem, analysis of the poem, the movement of the poem, the still picture of each moment capturing and assimilating whatever happens to be there.

Vranich builds his paradox painfully aware of the disintegration of the structure as well as the body, memory and art of its maker. He watches alone, yielding to that process fully, always willing to lay another piece of material down and continue the work.

You can send further thoughts on Mick and his legacy to letters@metrotimes.com.

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