Tuesday, November 08, 2016


My friend John Rezmerski died a few days ago. He was a wonderful poet, a revered teacher, a smart and interesting person, someone who -- as my friend Rebecca Korvo said -- really enjoyed life. He was 74, according to the Star-Tribune obituary, more or less my age. He'd been in poor health for some time, and my poetry group -- he was a member -- had been worried. We got an email from him recently, saying he was in the hospital. When he got out, we should hold a meeting in Mankato, where he lived, so he could attend. That sounded positive. Then we learned he had died.

Rez came from a blue collar family in a Pennsylvania paper mill town. He got an education and got out, ending as a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. He met the Minnesota poet Bill Holm in graduate school, and they became friends for life. I met Bill through Rez. Bill died a number of years ago, and Rez was his literary executor. I tend to think of them together: two big, smart, charming guys who were wonderful word smiths.

I asked Bill once why Rez was not better known as a poet. Bill said he thought it was because Rez was a white man from a blue collar background, and his poetry was often funny. This did not fit the Ameican idea of what poetry should be.

He wrote about blue collar life, science fiction, ravens, the Minnesota River, the 48 Dakota Indians hanged in Mankato after the Dakota Uprising in the 19th century -- all in a solid, straight-forward, skillful style. You could hear his voice in his poetry.

For years he drove up to the Twin Cities to attend meetings of the poetry group. He was the most prolific writer among us, and we always anticipated his latest work. I am going to miss him a lot.


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