This post originally appeared at The Poetry Foundation.
I will forever remember how fate guided a burst of Patricia Goedicke’s last words into my body. I had just hitch-hiked to the Bay Area from Missoula (where, I found out later, Goedicke taught for over 20 years). The sweeping energy of the wide plains sky was fresh in my bones as I wearily scanned a library shelf. A spark: As Earth Begins To End (2000) sent out a sharp, dry call to me, electric blue, “rifles whistling / their black songs.” Here was a poet who had whittled away a linear aesthetic for tireless decades, a slow talent, tempered. Her gift for scansion and sequence was achingly present in every line, “for the world as we know it moves / Necessarily by steps.” She was lithe, self-reliant, and strongly influenced by the chauvinistic austerity of 1930s and 40s free verse, especially her teachers Frost and Auden. Yet she infused her lineage with parody (“I say to You we have raisins for souls / Even when I drop mine into water / It won’t swell.”), with ecological communion (“I have watched from a safe corner / The rape of mountains, the eagle’s reckless plunge.”), and with a subtle but staunch feminist stance (“no pre-ordained / hand-me-down hierarchies for her / or me either […]”). To this day she remains a keystone for me, having immeasurably enriched the more sober strands of American poetry with her graceful, conscientious passage.
All quotes are taken from the last four books published during her lifetime: As Earth Begins To End (2000), Invisible Horses (1996), Paul Bunyan’s Bearskin (1992), and The Tongues We Speak (1989).