Archive for July 16th, 2006

Patricia Goedicke died Friday night at St. Pat’s. She had been suffering from lung cancer, and was apparently in good spirits the weeks leading up to her death.

For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure — or experience — of knowing Patricia, she was a poet and instructor at the University of Montana’s creative writing program. She was sassy and rude and flirtatious and wise and proper and wild. She was a diva. She was an icon in the powerful body of Montana writers. Whatever she was, she was never tame. Although I never took a class with Patricia, I got to know her first during my wife’s stint in the program, and then again — after she had retired — during my own two years in the writing program.

I used to co-ordinate the graduate students’ Second Wind reading series and had the pleasure of once introducing her before she read. I combed through all the reviews of her work and snipped here, cut there, and created a poem with the stolen words from those reviews. I think it came out well — not because of any particular genius on my end — but because of the ideas her work dislodged from professional critics.

That is, I didn’t write it. She earned it into existence.

Where undeniable talent lies

She didn’t look hard, but she looked as if she had heard all the answers and remembered the ones she thought she might be able to use sometime.

–Raymond Chandler

Wherein undeniable talent lies is difficult to fix —
Patricia Goedicke,
intensely emotional, intensely physical,
bears down on the language,
casts a wide net,
exhibits a Whitmanesque exuberance,
produces exact ambiguities,
and catches exotic fish.

Her poems,
an accretion,
indeed leap up,
startling and funny —
they never seem to end,
are products of the mind
where mundane is transformed into the terrifying —
they haunt us because they clarify — terror
changes into tender yet disturbing
love poems like parables
of survival.

Engaging, truthful, hard, elusive, powerful, excessive, surreal.

Reading Goedicke’s poems is like being
invited into the mind.

Of course, Patricia was a hundred times the poet I’ll ever be, so I’ll pass on one of her poems that was passed on to me. It speaks for itself.

Another Light

You thought you were only going on a picnic but you aren’t,
There is more to it than that.

Sitting here waiting for your friends

Somewhere in the center is a cracked voice
Gradually opening its mouth, and growing

For the young tree you are leaning against is moving:

Right through your backbone you can feel the smooth pole of it
Lurch back and forth, like a ship at sea that walks

High in the mountains, where the wind ruffles itself into whitecaps
And your hair lifts like feathers!

You know the crumbling dirt you are sitting on is a deck,
Inside the round hull of your body there are wings

There are compasses, strong spars
And a nose sharp as a prow to cut the wind

That is always with us, heavily moving through space

Especially at evening, in the blazing surf of sunset,
The slow heaving underfoot

You know you will have to set out anyway,
With or without your friends,

Crescents of Canada geese in their slim wedges
Swoop over the tall mastpole of your head

The black wall of the mountains stands straight up
In front of your face but there is another light

Behind it, always behind, the glittering bronze rim of it,
The vast eye of the universe like a lake

That is staring at you, mysterious, green at the far edges,

(Patricia Goedicke, from The Wind of Our Going 1985)

I miss you, Patricia.

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