Entries tagged with autobiography

Event 38: I Met (Memorial Site)

23–26 August 2013

My father died on 23 August 2013, and I posted a brief account below. The response of many friends, writers, colleagues, family—in several media but primarily on Facebook—was both moving and helpful. I want to record the names of those who responded here, making a kind of guestbook for the memorial event this page now is.

Heidi Eichbauer
Stephen Vincent
Susan Schultz
Ben Friedlander
Nada Gordon
Ben Lee
Ruth Lepson
Christine Neufield
Nataša Kovacevic
Scott MacLeod
… More

Document 28: In Memory

rhw

Artist: Shiy De-Jinn;
photo: Jan Watten

In memory
Raymond Henry Watten
20 August 1922–23 August 2013

Minneapolis, MN–Santa Rosa, CA

HOME

On Summit Street
across from a marble
monument, a large spray-
painted sign with his
initials in red block
letters. The background
is black. Next to the initials,
RHW, is a high contrast
image, a snapshot of him.
It is late summer, a
humid afternoon with slight
breeze. A bus goes by.
He comes out to meet it.

—from Opera—Works (1975)

I was a new arrival at the Iowa Writers Workshop, c. 1971–72. Given the kind of confessional, autobiographical, narrative poetry the workshop cared about, workshop leader Marvin Bell thought to prompt: “Write a poem about your father!” This is what I came up with. I did not return with a poem in which I was sharpening a tool behind the woodshed, wondering what to do next. The red-on-black high-contrast image appears to be a screen image for Salvador Allende, killed in the Chilean coup in 1973. My father did not represent Pinochet, but he was in his career a military officer and research doctor during the Vietnam War. He wrote a thoughtful support letter in my campaign to resist the draft, I should add. The location of the image (imagined) translates the psychogeographies of Charles Olson and Robert Smithson onto the quotidian landscape of Iowa City. Of course all such cultural references are to my own family romance. It strikes me that the season and weather described in the poem are those of today precisely, 23 August 2013, while in the poem, the bus and his emergence from the “home” of the title do not coincide. As now they just did.

… More

Fugs Second Album.

Recent threads on The Fugs have brought to mind my early encounter with their music, and the band itself, during my first visit to the St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, November 1965. When asked for a short statement on the Poetry Project for Anne Waldman’s anthology Out of This World: An Anthology of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, 1966–91, I wrote:

Thinking back on the Poetry Project, I am reminded of an absurdist question posed by Gerard Malanga to Charles Olson in The Paris Review: “A school is place where one can learn something. Can a school lose by giving away its knowledge?” From my first involvement with it in about 1972, The Poetry Project seemed a place where a school of poetry—the New York School—was physically embodied in a group of writers who felt free to develop in the confidence of their mutual (and contending) assumptions, and I certainly learned something from that. … More

Life magazine commissioned a series of photodocumentary essays for the “Life Science Library” in the mid 60s. I discovered this image quite by accident, several years after it was published and I had left MIT for Berkeley. That is the 17-year-old present author at far right.

From The Engineer, Life Science Library (New York, 1966), 89.

(In memory of Jeanne Alderton Watten Agnew, 19 April 1926–28 January 1990.)