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April 01, 2022


Cannot find the words I need right now. Thank you, Richard. May you rest in peace, dear, generous man. With my love and complete admiration.

The first conversation I had with Richard was after a class he taught at the N Y State Writers Summer Program at Skidmore. At the break I was looking out the window. He came over and asked me what the odd building our there in the woods was for. I told him it was a chapel and that it was quite nice to sit there on its steps surrounded by trees and ponder. I told him the door was always locked, so I didn't know what it was like inside. What kind of chapel is it? he asked. Ecumenical, I told him. Well, he said, keeping it always closed is really the only way to guarantee a chapel remains ecumenical!

I think that I laughed so hard was what guaranteed my relationship to him...

Richard could put your feet to the fire and show you how to walk through it. I had written to him about my ongoing readings of Yves Bonnefoy's translations of Shakespeare. And suddenly he called me up and asked if I could talk to his translation seminar at Columbia about it. And I thought, I can't do that, I have no authority on this, but I can't disappoint Richard with my cowardice. So I did it, and I did OK. Which then made it possible for me to do that sort of thing in other contexts. A gift.

One of the last times I saw him at his apartment, my young daughter was with us and was enthralled by him. Though he had trouble reaching for words out of his head at that point, he read one of his more recent poems (which was kind of astonishing, about feeding pigeons). Afterward I told my daughter that it was an experience she would be talking about in her own old age and that she should be sure to put it all to memory.

And here I am talking about it, already, just a little ahead of my own old age. But with such sadness and affection.

In my youth, I was a classical cellist. Richard knew that and he loved to discuss music, especially Bach, with me. He asked about the famous cello suites and the violin partitas and sonatas. I heard that Richard enjoyed listening to music during his final days. His devoted partner, David, cared for him so lovingly. On March 31, I realized that dear Richard had passed away peacefully on J.S. Bach's birthday.

That’s just beautiful, David, beauiful and inspiring and heartbreaking. Thank you, thank you

David, thank you for evoking Richard so justly and for printing the photo of him in an orange fedora and shirt and glasses with a bright frame. Last night my spouse, Elizabeth Wood, and I sat and read his poetry out loud, and began to permit ourselves to feel the extent of our loss--although we could read and hear his words in all their colors and precision. We also thanked our friend David Alexander for his tireless care and love for Richard. Catharine Stimpson

Thank you, Kate. I hope you will post for us soon. Maybe a Bryn Mawr brief memoir beautfully meditative and brilliantly modulated?

Thank you, Larry. I hope you're faring well.

Richard encouraged me even when I wrote drivel like this:
<< When I approached my publisher on my knees,
and said "please,"
it was as easy as a breeze
that rhymes with the trees.
And if you don't know how to rhyme
writing a novel is not a crime
and you can sell it if it's good
to a medium sized studio in Hollywood. >>

I knew him only through correspondence, but I had great respect for him and his work. His death represents a major loss for all of us.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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