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 .
there are so many islands, sep-
in the brain.
Walk across the channels. Follow
Will any of us be there?
Clearer and clearer, at the edge
where land and sea meet
in all corners
I see you in the water
the veiled skin of it
cloudy blooms of light
all who went away
so many years ago scattered
(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.
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.