Category Archives: Obituaries

Thomas Lux (1946 – 2017)

TOM LUX (December 10, 1946 – February 5, 2017)

Larry Goldstein was in town this past week, and we had lunch together at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where the upstairs gallery currently features some superb photographs of the Long Beach port. On our way to the museum, as I drove on Seventh Street, Larry mentioned that the Cortland Review was dedicating its next issue to the late Thomas Lux. I hadn’t heard that Tom had died, and I was as grateful for the slow traffic, as for the street’s familiarity. To have been told the same news on the 90 freeway last Friday night, as rain sliced down, might have had a different outcome, for the 90’s lane markers at night are very faint to begin with, and I struggled to detect exactly which lane I was traversing.

I first met Tom back in the early 1990s, when he was on a Southern California reading tour. He started at the Chateau Marmont on a weekend, headed over to Loyola Marymount at the start of the school week, and ended up at California State University Long Beach, by which time we ended up playing pool in the Student Union after his reading. I remember how surprised Tom was when I showed up at the second reading with a copy of Tarantulas on a Lifebuoy. He probably thought at that point that he had met everyone who had a copy of that early book. Not quite, I told him. Contrary to popular allegations from an individual he used to know in New York City, there were more than a handful of astute readers in Los Angeles.

Tom was a superb reader, and his poems fit perfectly into the Stand Up school that Charles Harper Webb was beginning to promote. Indeed, he unquestionably deserved his place in the second edition. He returned to the Los Angeles area in the late 1990s; along with Naomi Shihab Nye, he was the first poet-in-residence at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival. Idyllwild was the last place I saw him, in large part because my life as a scholar has diverted my creative energies outside of the contemporary poetry nexus. It was over a decade ago that we last wrote each other. His poems have been a constant presence in my teaching, though.

Thomas Lux radiated a multi-dimensional love of poetry that went beyond anything I have ever encountered in all but a few other people. If it seems that he is present now in my memory’s eye as a living presence, reciting lines of poetry by Hart Crane or Theodore Roethke to illustrate his point, then it is a measure of how much his invisible companionship has meant to me the past dozen years.

This sense of personal loss extends to Charles Harper Webb, one of my fellow poets at CSULB. I asked if he would be willing to contribute to this blog post about Tom Lux’s writing and presence in our lives and he immediately sent the following eulogy:

“I was beyond bummed to hear of the death of Tom Lux, one of the truly good guys in American poetry. Just last December, I sent him my new book of essays on poetry, and he promised to send me a copy of the collection of Bill Knott’s poems which he’d just finished editing. It never crossed my mind that I’d never see, or even e-mail him again. Since we lived on opposite sides of the country, I didn’t see him much; but he was my friend, and a world-class ally in the fight for clear, entertaining poetry. I love Tom’s poems. I wish I’d written them. Every virtue that I praise in my essays, his poetry exemplifies. Wit, passion, impropriety, brilliance of metaphor and conception—he gave it all to the world in clear, concise language that sounds like no one else. Because there was no one else like him. It’s our good fortune that, although his body’s gone, his voice still sings out of his books, loud and quirky, brave and clear.”

The Collected Poems of Tom Lux will be a book worth waiting for, and the second half of Charles’s assessment would be a spot on blurb for that book. In that kind of volume, it is a common practice to include an index of titles as well as first lines. I would recommend including an index of last lines, too, in that book as a way of giving young poets one more axis of inspiration. I have seen many determined and talented young poets emerging in the past twenty years, but few have the gift of Tom Lux’s quirky, encompassing, comic sense of poignant elucidation.

If I were to take part in a memorial reading, I would be hard pressed to choose which one of his poems to read. “Refrigerator, 1957” would probably be my choice, though given its popularity, someone else would probably have read it by the time I got to the podium. It is certainly one of the best poems to have first appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/thomas-lux/refrigerator-1957/
https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/thomas-lux/refrigerator-1957/
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1997/07/28/refrigerator-1957
http://happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2013/11/number-326-thomas-lux-refrigerator-1957.html

And for a view of that poem “across the pond,” go to:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/16/selected-poems-1986-to-2012-thomas-lux-review

One of the better articles I’ve found on his poetry can be found at:
http://www.cerisepress.com/01/01/life-on-a-piecemeal-planet-god-particles-by-thomas-lux/view-all

https://www.pshares.org/issues/winter-1998-99/about-thomas-lux-profile
Issue 77 / Winter 1998-99 – Stuart Dischell
http://www.news.gatech.edu/2017/02/07/campus-atlanta-communities-mourn-loss-thomas-lux-director-poetrytech
https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2017/02/thomas-lux-obituary/516354/
http://www.dailyo.in/voices/tom-lux-death-poet-poetry-eulogy-tribute-vijay-seshadri/story/1/15523.html

Tom Raworth’s “Jazz Attitude”

TOM RAWORTH (July 29, 1938 – February 8, 2017)

Since the announcement of Tom Raworth’s death, the obituary news has also added Al Jarreau’s name to the roll-call. Jarreau’s own definition of his “jazz attitude” was quoted in one obituary as “the idea of being open to each and every moment as a chance to create something different.” That aspect of a musical poetics would suggest a strong imaginative kinship between Jarreau and Tom Raworth, whom I heard read only once, at UCSD, and for which I remain grateful; the full-throated rendition of his differences lingers as an encouraging whisper in my daily life of writing and not writing. His blog ends with the notation that “Bits of it all have been fun and it’s been a decent run.” I would describe it as an exemplary broadcast from the self’s anothering.

http://tomraworth.com/nlinks.html

Tom Raworth, 1938–2017

http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/features/the-lyrical-genius-of-tom-raworth

Tom Raworth (1938-2017)

http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com

http://pippoetry.blogspot.com/2011/07/tom-raworth.html

http://lallysalley.blogspot.com/2017/02/tom-raworth-rip.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/mar/31/poetry
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/culture-stars-died-2017/tom-raworth/
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/06/raworth-poems-flames-windmills

Tom Raworth (1938-2017)

Don Waller: In Memoriam

Friday, November 18, 2016

My friend, Richard Agata, called me yesterday afternoon with the news that Don Waller died on Tuesday, November 15. While Don is probably best known as being the author of “The Motown Story,” he was also a musician, song-writer, music critic and historian, as well as a journalist who brought his skeptical stare to everything he edited. When it was time to do a final check on the boards we were about to send to the printer, there was no one I more trusted to be in the chair scanning the pasted-up columns.

For ten years (1985-1995) I worked alongside Don at Radio & Records, and it was a privilege to have a chance to see a professional at work in a field where many aspire, and most falter. It was an industry newspaper, and as such it was as much a part of the music industry as a newspaper enterprise. Our stand-out distinction was the integrity of our charts. You could buy an advertisement in our newspaper, but you couldn’t buy a boost in the chart position. We recorded what stations were actually playing, and if they decided to cheat on their reports, they risked losing being a reporter to our charts. My sense is that it was a risk that few were willing to take.

It was a weekly newspaper, and the schedule could be grueling. Even if one were inclined to shop on Black Friday, few of us at R&R ever did more than sleep that day. Monday of that week was a normal eight to nine hour shift, and then Tuesday would be a 14 hour shift, usually ending around 1:30 a.m. We would then return around 10:30 a.m. the next morning to work a ten to eleven hour shift to get all the work done that would normally be done on a Thursday and Friday. Waking up on Thanksgiving morning and starting to cook that day’s dinner took every bit of commitment I could summon. My guess is that Don Waller didn’t bother sleeping Wednesday night. He was as precise and devoted to perfection around the stove burners as he was at the keyboard.

The work ethic at R&R, epitomized by Don Waller’s relentless enthusiasm, has carried over into my academic life. There are people I meet at the university who simply wouldn’t last at a place such as R&R. They couldn’t cut it, and Don would be the first to let them know, though not in a confrontational way. As Lucie Morris, my dear friend and fellow typesetter, noted in her Facebook post, Don’s nonchalant humor was inspirational. One night, decompressing at 2:15 a.m. around a long production table, Don mimicked a recently hired worker in the news sections who had explained her indolent work pace at that morning’s meeting: “I don’t want to burn out.”

“Baby, you haven’t even caught on fire yet,” he had retorted.

She was gone within another six weeks, and it surprised us all to hear that she had landed a job at a well-known news outlet in Washington, D.C., which must have obviously had a less challenging culture than its reputation would have suggested.

Don had been a musician in his youth and had a band called Imperial Dogs, which would have had more success had it launched itself two years laters in the early years of punk rock. In 1974, the world was not yet ready for confrontational rock and roll. For Don, though, shifting from guitar to typewriter allowed him to use his considerable intelligence in a way that gave his performances as a writer an enduring presence in the conversation.

“The Motown Story” is out-of-print, but is far from being unavailable. Over 300 libraries around the world have the book in their stacks, and I guarantee that you will get something out of this book. I still quote his comment about the relationship between the bass guitar and the drums as a way to help students understand what vowels and consonants are doing in a line of poetry.

Don knew I was a poet and that I organized readings in the community. A few months after I was no longer working at R&R, I set up one of my favorite readings, pairing Ellen Sander, whose first chapbook is being published this fall, and Don Waller. My recollection is that Richard Agata did the flyer. I have rarely worked as hard to make a reading successful, and the raucous applause of a large crowd that afternoon in October, 1995 was all the reward I needed.

Don stepped off-stage in the full spotlight of a supermoon. I bow to his presence in my life, as I will bow to his absence. Whatever chance conjugations brought a force field named Don Waller into the universe, I can only say I am grateful to have met him and to have worked with him. He is the only person I have ever met that I would trust to do liner notes for my next spoken word project. The old saying that “the graveyard’s full of irreplaceable people” doesn’t hold true in Don’s case. There isn’t anyone to replace him. The kind of obsessive discipline that drove him to demand more knowledge about music, each and every day he lifted his ears to listen, can’t be found anymore.

Affectionate nostalgia is often a narcissistic luxury, and yet I will indulge. How else can I describe the recollection of those moments passing in the hall at R&R when we would pause and somehow pull it all together: the work, the music, the need to do both, the honor of the ordinary moment under pressure in the company of an extraordinary comrade. Thank you, Don. I say farewell with a very heavy heart.

DON WALLER
September 1, 1951 – November 17.2016

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-don-waller-20161118-story.html

http://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/159922/r-r-s-don-waller-passes-away
Joel Denver

http://www.rocksbackpages.com/Library/Writer/don-waller

Remembering Don Waller


Steve Hochman

http://www.laweekly.com/music/rip-don-waller-influential-music-journalist-and-imperial-dog-7625759
John Payne

In Gratitude: Sgt. Steve Owen; Mollie Lowery; Ray Milefsky

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Gratitude has no memory, or so I often grouse to myself; it only recollects the formulaic words that acknowledge service rendered, and then dispenses with any further need to consider the consequences of appreciation. Occasionally, an individual’s contribution is honored by a street or highway being named in her or his honor, but rarely do such passageways intersect. While one person’s extension into the lives of others almost always constitutes a community with no direct contact with another person’s assemblage of comrades, coworkers, friends, and affectionate affiliations, one nevertheless can imagine the possibility of an encounter between the distant trajectories of parallel lives. Perhaps this is the most feasible sense of an afterlife: the moment when we pause and think of those who deserved to have met and shared a long meal, even if their lives seemed extraordinarily different.

In this instance, I call to mind three people: Sgt. Steve Owen; Mollie Lowery; and Ray Milefsky. Sgt. Steve Owen was the most recent of the three to die. According to news sources, a burglary suspect has been arrested on suspicion of being the person who murdered Sgt. Owen when Owen was investigating a burglary in progress in Lancaster, California (in northern Los Angeles County). The tributes to Owen mark him as a model sheriff’s deputy, a man who practiced the virtues of caring for those in need on a daily basis. Mollie Lowery equaled, if not surpassed, Owen in giving of herself to those less fortunate. That fate spared her a violent death seems more a matter of chance, for the homeless population Lowery worked amongst most certainly made her vulnerable to being in the wrong place in the wrong time. Both Owen and Lowery gave of themselves by voluntarily being in “the wrong place” as a matter of heroic vocation. In both DTLA and Lancaster, which is to say both at the center and periphery, their names should meet in mutual honor.

The third person I have mentioned, Ray Milefsky, lived on the other side of the country. His public service was more bureaucratically conventional, and yet he seems to have had the gift of resolving boundary disputes in a manner that forestalled violent confrontations. His abilities required hard-won knowledge of both geography and culture, and it will not be easy to replace him with someone of equal dexterity. Milefsky’s friends and associates considered him a polyglot, but the most intimate language he spoke was the one heard in the soul’s ear, the emphatic whisper heard at great distances by Owen and Lowery, too: reconciliation is unceasing; whatever you do to bring that about, let not the lack of gratitude dismay you. Let each life be a prayer of gratitude unto itself. As for those who mourn, let the final, inconsolable syllable somehow be uttered in hopeful grief.

Mollie Lowery (August 2, 1945 – July 25, 2016)
Ray Milefsky (February 20, 1949 – August 1, 2016)
Sgt. Steve Owen (died in the line of duty, October 5, 2016)

(In Gratitude)
If our voices are lifted in radiant praise
through sleepless nights and tumultuous days,
then let us remember the source of our grace
and know that redemption is now taking place.

(Note: The above fragment of a hymn was written on a walk, on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 – 8:20 – 8:33 p.m.)

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-steve-owen-20161005-snap-story.html
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-lopez-lowery-20160725-snap-story.html
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-mollie-lowery-obit-20160725-snap-story.html

RAY MILEFSKY: A TRIBUTE

Bordermap Consulting


http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?pid=181362628