Monday, May 31, 2010

A Celebration of Ruth Daigon, by Robert Sward

Remarks from Sun., May 30, 2010, Memorial Poetry Reading, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA on a program with David Alpaugh, Jack & Adelle Foley, C.B. Follett, Lynne Knight, Jacqueline Kudler, and Susan Terris.

Ruth has been something of a muse, an inspired spirit for many of us, and in addition, for me, literally a “goddess of memory.” She wrote a description of our first meeting (some 40 or so years ago) and our ongoing friendship in a little essay she titled “The Poet in Bandages.”

I’d been run over by a car in Cambridge, MA, shortly before meeting Ruth and Artie at a reading I was giving at the U of Connecticut, where Artie was teaching. I’d spent the night in Massachusetts General Hospital. I’d suffered a mild concussion, some loss of memory and my ability to recall all that happened that night (in the late 1960s) was somewhat impaired. My right ear had had to be sewn back onto my head. So I was wearing a blood-stained bandage over my head and loose and damaged ear to keep it in place. Sometimes one reads to an audience of 4 or 5 people. But for this one, so I believed, Ruth and Artie had conjured up a crowd of a couple hundred people.

Goddess of memory? All I know is that when I think of Ruth (and Artie) this image arises… of two inseparable, wonderfully warm, loving, heartful and generous people, but also, for me, “bridge people,” two individuals who helped mark my movement as a writer from late 1960s East Coast (Connecticut…) to late 1980s West Coast USA (San Francisco, Berkeley, San Rafael, Oakland, Santa Cruz...).

Ruth saved some letters we exchanged and when I read at the Berkeley "Y" in the 1980s on a program with another East Coast friend and ally, Jack Foley (who I’d met and known at Cornell), Ruth turned up with a copy of a letter I’d written about her poetry.

That night in the company of Ruth and Artie Daigon, Jack and Adelle Foley, I felt in a sense I’d come home.

Especially when, after our reading at the Berkeley “Y”, Ruth and Artie told me more about the UConn reading, of which I remembered little.

In Ruth’s account, I grabbed Artie’s arm and exclaimed, “You were there? Tell me all about it.’

In her “Poet in Bandages” essay, Ruth wrote, “It was like Robert had lost and was reclaiming a part of his life…” which is true. She understood exactly what was happening. I was, indeed, with Ruth and Artie’s help, reclaiming a lost part of my life. So later, recognizing Ruth –in addition to everything else—as “Goddess of Memory,” it seemed only appropriate to show her a poem of mine titled MR. AMNESIA, which opens,

“Even an amnesiac remembers some things better than others /

…I don’t know about you, but I hardly unpack /

and get ready for this lifetime and it’s time /

to move on to the next…”

which Ruth published in her magazine, POETS: ON. And we’ve been in touch ever since. And it was Ruth and Artie Daigon who introduced Gloria and me to David Alpaugh and Mary Jane… good friends, good friends!

Speaking of movement, adventure and memory, I’d like to share Ruth Daigon’s poem FREEWAY which, as Artie agrees, is something of a prayer (Ruth herself used to read it as if it were a prayer), and prayers are nothing if not lyrical, emotional, inspired, musical…


Be my friend

Slow down the traffic

Re-route the semis and their blind spots

Call a halt to the crawlers the weavers

The shooters the spreaders

Grant me a free space in the slow lane where

Traffic flows serenely

Like the life I left behind

Entering another an immigrant

Crossing borders with nothing to declare

I come from a wandering race

And life with its ten plagues

Is too familiar

Almost a friend

But the freeway invents new disasters

Sure as a needle in a vein

A waltz between two pits

And another pogrom waiting in the wings


Deliver me from interlocking lanes

Tangled traffic

Hypnotic miles

Calm in control

Holding hard to the studded lifeline

With my motor humming

Like a second heart.



Ruth Daigon made the transition from concert soprano to full time poet, editor, performance artist. She began the publication Poets On: a theme-oriented poetry journal, and was its editor for its twenty year life. She has frequently appeared in Internet publications, hard copy magazines and anthologies. Her most recent book Between One Future And The Next, Papier Mache Press, was published in 1995. Ruth's latest book " The Moon Inside" (Gravity/Newton's Baby) made its appearance in 1999. [Ruth Daigon in her own voice reads Payday at the Triangle, CD available, I believe, from our friend Jack Foley. It's an amazing poem, one that will likely secure her reputation as one of this country's truly gifted poets. You want the real thing? THIS is the real thing.

No comments: