By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
An artistic soul with a '60s sensibility, Fred "Hutch" Hutchison can find poetry in anything. Literally, anything.
The off-color ads in the back of this publication, for instance, caught Hutchison's eye, and what he saw was pure verse. So he copped lines from a bunch of advertisements, strung them together, and produced "OBSERVER SEX: Babes burgers and basketball":
"For a real taste of Texas!"
"Don't call if you expect a fake orgasm!"
"Bored Dallas Housewives"
"Cheatin' young wives"
"Monica: I'm young exotic and very submissive!"
"Beautiful blonde goddess......."
You get the picture.
Hutchison's Dallas Observer-inspired verse arrived last week, along with a letter trying to convince us that his output of poetry is so phenomenal he might be eligible for The Guinness Book of World Records.
"I can't stop writing!" he wrote. "There's rarely a day goes by I don't write at least one [poem], and generally it's about seven to ten." His personal best is 34 poems in one day.
"In the last three years, the total number of poems must be nearing 4,000! I can hardly keep up with it!"
Prolific? Yes. A Guinness candidate? Well, as Wordsworth might have put it:
The 1996 Guinness Book makes no mention of the world's most prolific poet, but if some of the other writing categories are any measure, Hutchison had better trade up to a faster computer and start turning the Yellow Pages into haiku.
The record for the most prolific author goes to Charles Harold St. John Hamilton, who in the earlier part of this century penned about 80,000 words a week for the British boys' weeklies Gem and Boys' Friend. Lifetime output: 75 million words.
Hutchison is all but blocked by comparison.
Englishman John Fitchett, who lived in the early 1800s, is credited with writing the longest known poem: 129,807 lines on the life of King Alfred. Those Brits sure have a way with the language.
We drove out to Bedford one rainy day last week to discuss these findings with Hutchison. By the time we got to his apartment, he had penned four more poems for us. "This stuff just comes through me," he said. "I don't even understand it myself."
Hutchison was sipping black tea and tending a little fire, his poems arrayed in big black binders on the mantel. The titles alone go on and on: "Sick World," "TV Style," "Nike," "Ode to Mr. Birnbaum," "Andy Fame," "Simply Us," "Freedom for Abdul, An American," "For Muhammed." Since last March, he has nearly completed his latest series, titled "2,000 poems for 2,000 years."
Back in Texas after a lengthy stay in Guadalajara, Mexico, Hutchison says he was inspired to write "Observer Sex" after being jarred by the frank way in which sex is sold in the United States.
He is staying at the moment in a semi-bleak garden apartment that belongs to the sister of his business partner. Carless, he is a prisoner of the 'burbs.
"I'm a vagabond poet," says the 57-year-old Hutchison. "For 40 years, I've been taking it in. Now I'm spontaneously regurgitating. It's all coming out."
Seated before a lap-top, which is propped up on a cardboard box, Hutchison produces a short resume and some supporting material. He lists some impressive credentials in TV production, editing, and camera work. Hutchison boasts of winning an award for film editing for the 1979 PBS film The Great Container War and working as a producer in sports for ABC and NBC.
He first visited Dallas-Fort Worth to produce professional golf tournaments in the '60s, and moved here for good in the mid-'80s to work on a film about Jack Favor, a rodeo champion. His wife didn't take to Texas' harsh charms and moved back to Berkeley. ("I lost a wife to Texas," he says. "If it weren't for Kalachandji's Restaurant and the Bluebonnet health-food store, I wouldn't have made it either.")
These days, freelance commercial video and advertising work pays the bills, he says, but there doesn't appear to be a commercial bone in Hutchison's body.
Dressed in a green Army jacket, jeans, and T-shirt, his gray beard and hair cropped close, he aspires to whittle his possessions down until everything he owns will fit into a simple day pack. He has made no attempt to publish his verse.
The poetry began bubbling out of him about three years ago while he was living near Big Bend, researching a film project, he says. And it hasn't stopped yet.
"It started like that. There's no reason to it," he says. "The whole experience was totally unexpected. I'm not well versed in poetry, but it's something I've learned about these past three years
"I'll write for hours....Sometimes I'm just glad when the words stop. It's all coming to fruition. But it's also wearing me out.