Field Notes

By Robin Becker

 

In Memoriam: Patricia Goedicke (1931—2006) and Jean Pedrick (1923—2006)

 

This summer, the deaths of Patricia Goedicke and Jean Pedrick touched many people. Cherished community members, beloved poets and teachers, each forged a rich, creative life, with her writing at the center.

Patricia Goedicke, born Patricia Ann McKenna in Boston, graduated from Middlebury College in 1953 and earned an MA in creative writing from Ohio University. For twelve years, she and her second husband, writer Leonard Wallace Robinson, lived and wrote in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Returning to the United States in 1981, Goedicke taught in the creative writing program at the University of Montana for 25 years. Between 1968 and 2000, she published twelve books of poetry. Reviewing her last book, As Earth Begins to End, I was struck by her ability to create a language that accommodated scientific processes, human emotion, and the music of the lyric poem. From poems that sprawl across the page, she wrests an intimate sensibility, combining an affinity for the colloquial with a speculative restlessness. Here’s a poem from As Earth Begins to End .

 

And Yet

 

 there are so many islands,   sep-

      arated

    in the brain.

  Walk across the channels.   Follow

     a sandpiper.

 

    Will any of us be there?

 Clearer and clearer, at the edge

     where land and sea meet

  everywhere, windblown

     pebbles

    in all corners  

    and

 

 I see you in the water

    the veiled skin of it

cloudy blooms of light

     all who went away

   so many years ago  scattered

 dispersed    vaporized

still here      

    

(Reprinted with permission from As Earth Begins to End: New Poems, by Patricia Goedicke, Copper Canyon Press, 1999.

 

Born in Salem Massachusetts, Jean Pedrick graduated from Wheaton College and, after marrying, moved to Boston’s Beacon Hill. One of five women and three men who founded Alice James Books in 1973, Pedrick understood that women had to “take control of the presses” to get into print, and worked to secure the fledgling press’ future. Today, Alice James Books thrives, publishing from its base of operations at the University of Maine. I met Pedrick when I joined AJB in 1979. Wise and forthright, she navigated opinions and personalities with a singular grace and style; we admired and loved her. For 32 summers, Pedrick, known for her keen criticism, hosted a Monday poetry workshop at her New Hamphire farm. In 1980, Pedrick founded Rowan Tree Press, publishing poetry and prose for ten years. From Pride and Splendor, one of Pedrick’s four collections, I select Calling Home,” a poem that showcases Pedrick’s wit and savvy.

 

Calling Home

 

Alas, she felt: if you hear

it ring, you have to try

to run. You have to answer.

 

“Grandma, it’s me. It’s me.”

“Ist das you, Jeanie?”

“Grandma, it’s me. Ja. Jeanie.”

“Jeanie’s not home. She ist in

New York,” she tells me.

 

“Grandma, I’m home. I’m at Logan!”

I shout direct in the speak holes

cupping my hand to put every force

of my voice in her ear holes.

 

“Ach, the verdammte thing!

Nothing! Nothing! She cried,

 

and hangs up.

 

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