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Remembering Stephen Rodefer, 1940-2015

By Harriet Staff


Our weekend was a little more gloomy than usual after hearing news that the legendary poet, translator, and teacher, Stephen Rodefer, has died. Rodefer played a significant role in the lives of many (particularly, young-) poets as a brilliant, sirenic, and capricious guide: he taught English and creative writing at the University of New Mexico and lectured at various colleges including San Francisco State University and the University of San Diego, where he served as Curator for the Archive of New Poetry. Jennifer Moxley remembers Rodefer on her site:

I feel a mix of nostalgia and melancholy today, occasioned by the news that my old teacher and sometime friend, poet Stephen Rodefer, has died in Paris. He played a significant role in my chronicle of what I jokingly called l’école de San Diego—The Middle Room—and a significant role in my poetic formation. But he was not a mentor. That word, originating from the name of the sage advisor in The Odyssey, doesn’t fit Rodefer. He was more like Odysseus, many minded, wiley, attractive, a “resort darling.”* In The Middle Room I compared him to a god: “his air was aristocratic, and when he walked he surveyed the landscape before him like a man who is certain that he has, like Apollo, left in the wake of his golden form a comet’s tail of glowing light . . .” And later, “He was dedicated to the old-fashioned image of the poet whose only master is truth and only mistress beauty . . . .” Many today might find the way he played the poet role old fashioned, but when I was young I found the romance he brought to it both silly and intoxicating. Anyone who spent any time in his company has an anecdote to tell.

During the years Steve and I lived in Providence (1989—1998) he visited often. An especially memorable time was in May of ’94, right after I had graduated from Brown. Following a stint in Cambridge, England he showed up carrying a battered leather suitcase that had supposedly belonged to I. A. Richards (it was monogrammed). Inside was one of the largest bottles of Vodka I’d ever seen. Taking all the new poetry anthologies that had appeared during his time abroad, he proceeded to set up camp in our backyard, drinking and leafing through volumes, out of which he composed a poem.

Continue reading at Moxley’s site. Rest in peace, enchanting character.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 by Harriet Staff.