Sunday, November 13, 2016

Memorial Service

I went to John Remerski's memorial service yesterday, riding down with Ruth Berman. It was a close to perfect late fall day, the sky cloudless, the sun bright and pale. The leaves are almost entirely gone, and the landscape is shades of brown and tan. We passed a fair number of ponds and lakes. These were intensely blue, reflecting the sky. Mankato is about two hours south of the Twin Cities. We were running late when we reached it and took a wrong turn off the highway, getting lost and seeing a lot more of Mankato than we intended to. When we finally reached the church (Unitarian-Universalist) the service was half over. The only seats available were in the crying room in the back. We sat amid building blocks and toy trucks and listened to Rez's friends tell stories and read his poetry.

I knew only a tiny corner of Rez's life: the poetry group we both belonged to and the Lady Poetesses from Hell, who read very funny poetry at SF conventions. Most of his life was at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he was writer in resident for many years, in the local community and in the larger poetry community in Minnesota. I heard people talk about him as a teacher and mentor, a colleague, a terrific cook. He helped put on the local eisteddfod, which I knew about, but never thought about. (Eisteddfod? In Minnesota?) He was active in the local historical society and spent 30 years working on a long poem about the Minnesota River, which was finally published this year. (I will have to get a copy.) After the African American poet Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee) read at Gustavus Adolphus many decades ago, Rez told a friend that he wanted to write poetry as direct, and Rez's poetry was direct, down-to-earth, funny...

After the service there was a church basement meal, ending with coffee and lemon bars. I got a chance to chat -- very briefly -- with Rez's wife and son. A mike was set up in the dining hall and more people told stories and read Rez's poetry. Then Ruth and I drove back tot he Cities through the bright, late autumn afternoon


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