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October 02, 2014

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Remembering Vern Rutsala

Vern Rutsala was a 29-year-old English instructor in 1963–64 when I was a freshman in his Humanities 103 course. The following year, I was in his creative writing class when his first poetry collection, The Window, was published; two years later, I was in his American poetry seminar. He also was my senior advisor.

When I think about the poems I wrote for him, I flinch, and he probably did too. He was not one to suffer fools gladly, but he could do it gracefully without a student’s losing face. One day in his poetry seminar, I was pilloried by others after I’d given a program about free verse. Aware of my hurt, he kindly pointed out the positive aspects of my presentation.

Two highlights of my later life were interviewing him for our paper here in Longview, Washington, where he was to conduct a poetry workshop and give a reading at Lower Columbia College (ca. 1998), and later introducing him before the reading.

It is my hope that Lewis & Clark will strive to keep his memory and writings alive for present and future generations.

John M. McClelland B.A. ’67
Longview, Washington

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