Friday, January 22, 2010

Memories of the Iowa Workshop

I wrote this as a response to a wonderful reminiscence of Iowa Workshop days by Lewis Turco, at his Poetics and Ruminations blog. But while there was a comments box, I couldn't find a button to submit the comment, so I've transferred it over here.

His reminiscence included this paragraph:

If these on-campus events are vivid, so are scenes like the one that took place at an M.L.A. convention in Chicago a few years later when, after the annual Iowa get-together, a bunch of the poets from various eras adjourned to my room for an all-night one-upmanship word-game marathon. -- Don was there, and Bob Dana, Steve Parker I think, and several others. Toward morning, Justice, who was lying on the bed -- or, rather, dripping half off it -- whenever a particularly good bon mot was passed, grunted feebly in a gesture of humor appreciated. I believe we kept it up so long largely to see if we could elicit just one more grunt of approval from Don Justice.

My response:

Lew - I was one of the others at that marathon wordplay night in Chicago -- in fact, that was the night we first met. You had left the Workshop before I got there, and I had inherited your title of World's Most Egregious Punster. So when word came that you were on your way up to the suite, there was a hush of expectation, reminiscent of an old Western saloon before the meeting of two legendary gunfighters. As I recall, we did not disappoint.

Don Justice ended up back at the suite, as you recall, but much much earlier in the evening, some of us had been sitting around -- Marvin Bell, Steve Parker, Nick Crome, Tod Perry, among others -- and the conversation came around to Justice. A little sozzled and sentimental, we began talking about how sad it was that poets were not more honored -- here was Donald Justice, one of the great 20th Century poets, in Chicago, and was there any ceremony to honor him? No! He was unsung and un-honored. So we would do something about it. We would arrange a testimonial.
At that moment, the door opened, and there stood Don, resplendent in tuxedo. "Sorry I can't spend the evening with you, gentlemen -- the French Ambassador is taking me to dinner at Maxim's."


lewis turco said...

Hey, great memory, Tad. I don't know why you couldn't leave it on my blog, though. I'll copy it and put it up.


Lewis Turco said...


I put your comment up on my blog. My email address is What's Bob Berner's address? What's yours?