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Assistant Professor, William Paterson University of New Jersey, United States

Friday, August 17, 2007

Liam Rector's Suicide

Rest in Peace, Liam. I realize now that so much of what you wrote and said in your several capacities had a touch of your leaving (this way) in it. Now I'm thinking of your poem, "We colored your leaving," etc etc. I also think of your Ronald Beaver ("beavering"). It took your suicide obituary for the world to know your given name was Ronald.
I shared a number of cigarettes with Liam after a number of one-on-one meetings regarding my poems and later manuscript (he was the first teacher to tell me that my work held a "there" there, so to speak, and the last one to advise me on the final manuscript). Sometimes he would describe the sensation of smoking a cigarette while hooked up to the chemo machine, and that it was actually incredibly satisfying. All in all, I'll remember the many mix Cd's he sent me (which were always surprising), and how he would send tapes of HIM reading MY poems aloud--something that struck me as a useful pedagogical tool. He once said the he'd never heard a poet read too slowly. I agree. We had an intermittent email correspondence going in the few years since my MFA, but I recall the last thing he said to me in person: "That's a sharp haircut. If I've taught you anything at all, Chris, it's the importance of a good haircut."
My favorite Liam workshop lines: "Discipline is the religion of the uninterested" (he always saw the systematic, and often spiritualized the secular. He did love Emerson). The other favorite point was this: "Every poem says, essentially, the same thing: My heart aches."


Michael said...

Thanks for this, Chris. I remember how useful and amazing it was to get Liam's tapes of MY poetry when I was working on my thesis. And the mix CDs too.

He would paraphrase Berryman's line too, regarding what all poetry says: "I'm sad a-lonely."

Wyn Cooper said...

This is such a good remembrance of my best friend. I have the mixed cds, the cassettes before that, and probably more stories than you'd ever have time to hear. Miss him so much, but so glad to read your memories of him.