I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

06 July 2008

Bill Studebaker

Very sad news received about Idaho poet William Studebaker having drowned in a kayak accident. Bill was one of those countless "minor" poets who are the best teachers, promoters, and practitioners of the craft. Of Idaho poets, he's right up there on my list of influences very early in my development (Rick Ardinger, Charles David Wright, Maggie Ward, too).

Bill was born in Salmon, Idaho, became very well known as an expert kayaker and outdoorsman (the photo here looks like generic hardscrabble southern Idaho, maybe just outside the City of Rocks), and he was an institution at the College of Southern Idaho, teaching for 30 years at a junior college.

With Ron McFarland, he had edited the only literary anthology of Idaho poetry, covering a 100 years of work. He also enabled the growth of many young poets, some of whom have gone far and wide from Idaho.

For me, he wrote a very enthusiastic, generous letter in support of my first book to be published by the University of Idaho press. That press had never before published an individual book of poetry, but they were intrigued by the subject matter of the mining disaster. The editors, however, felt completely out of their element judging the quality of the poetry. It would have been easy for Bill to have written a mean-spirited commentary, to prevent someone else getting a foothold not available to him, especially some young punk who had abandoned the state and who had only lately returned, a sorry stray coming home with his tail between his legs. Bill's statement was not just an argument for my particular manuscript, but it was something about the viability and necessity of poetry to address the deepest and darkest veins of grief, greed, and redemption. It was a big-hearted afffirmation of poetry itself. Bill's letter is something I'll keep in my own small treasures.