Local Has Prolific Writing Career

Dennis Evanosky Lyle La Faver holds a translation of his poem “Death on the Square.” The actions of the Chinese at Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989 so impressed La Faver that he wrote a poem about the events. His poem so impressed one of his colleagues that the colleague translated the poem into Mandarin.

 

While writing a story about Alameda resident Lyle La Faver’s poetry, I discovered that I had much more to tell. I learned that, not unlike me, ink flowed in La Faver’s veins. He spent most of his life writing not just poems but news copy — lots of news copy. 

People in the news business have stories to tell, and La Faver is no exception. My favorite is a tale I stumbled on while researching this story — a tale about a bank robbery he participated in. No, not as a robber, but as one of the good guys. About six years ago, he sat down with the Lake County Record-Bee’s Mandy Feder and told her about the 1966 robbery that happened while he was working as a reporter.

La Faver remembers seeing the robber holding the gun to the bank manager’s head while marching the helpless man out the back door to the parking lot. The then-30-year-old reporter ran behind that slow-moving getaway car. “A detective picked him up in an undercover vehicle and asked La Faver if that was the bank robber in the other car,” Feder relates.

La Faver answered “yes, with a hostage.” The officer introduced himself and suddenly realized that he was not talking to a fellow officer, but to a reporter. La Faver looked on as the police gunned the bank robber down right in front of him.

La Faver went back to his desk and wrote up his adventure at the bank. “It won him a best spot news award,” Feder related. La Faver worked as a newspaperman for 14 years. He told Feder that writing news copy solidly impacted his writing, making it sharp and direct — qualities you find in his poetry. 

After witnessing the events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989, La Faver applied his sharp, direct pen to relate what he witnessed. He called his work “Death on the Square.”

The poem helps us recall events of the summer of 1989 and particularly that brave man who defied the tanks on Tiananmen Square. We never learned his identity and remember him as simply “tank man.” La Faver was working at Pacific Gas and Electricity Company when he wrote “Death on the Square.” His work so impressed a colleague that the colleague translated the poem into Mandarin, wrote it out in handsome calligraphy and presented it to La Faver. 

While I was writing this story a news bite came across my screen with a photograph of a shirtless man in Istanbul, Turkey standing in front of a tank just as “tank man” had done. The comparison wasn’t lost on the London Mirror. “It is reminiscent of the famous photograph of an unidentified Chinese citizen who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 4, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests by force,” the Mirror told its readers. 

Stories do repeat themselves. 

 

Death on the Square 
by Lyle La Favre

Side by side they stood,
On the side of good
‘Twas freedom they sought, 
With words they fought. 
Shoulder to shoulder
Bolder and bolder
The cry for new order
Rang out in the square.
One among them stood alone
On the harsh stone
Facing canon and tanks
He didn’t break ranks
The great cause 
Drew world applause 
The cry for new order 
Went beyond a mere border
The world was there
On Tiananmen Square
To watch and behold 
The acts of the bold.