Elegy for Bill Shively

for Bill: Poet, Teacher, Friend

June 27, 1952 — September 28, 2014

This is a drink for Bill Shively,
one of the several poets we lost last year,
mine wine but his beer — or sake —
if he could clink my glass
from wherever he went.
Who was one of us
during the old days,
though he’d long since
moved to Oregon
to teach special ed kids,
taking his hat worn at a rakish angle
and his Chicago-style cool.
Who incorporated a whole country,
“Guanabana,” with boundaries
the periphery of a table for four
at the Comet Tavern one night.
It was a small country.  You had to leave
it to go to the bathroom,
but still, the treasury could afford
another round of beers for all citizens.
Who had a goat roast each summer
in Oregon.  I drove down once,
camped in his dusty backyard,
sang my poems from a makeshift stage
set among roaming chickens.
Who said, I can stand the heat.
I just don’t like the kitchen.
Time burns, he told us,
and it burned him.
He wrote to me from Japan,
I miss the U.S. of US.
And we found, at his memorial
in Seattle, though we’ve all gone
on to our separate destinies,
that we are still an us.

—Judith Roche

All Fire  All Water, published by Black Heron Press in 2015, is Judith Roche’s fourth poetry collection. Her third, The Wisdom of the Body, won an American Book Award. She has published widely in various journals and magazines, and has poems installed on several public art projects in the Seattle area. She co-edited First Fish, First People: Salmon Tales of the North Pacific Rim, which also won an American Book Award. She has conducted workshops around the United States and has taught at several universities. She currently teaches at Richard Hugo House Literary Center in Seattle. She is a Fellow in the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank exploring the links between nature, spirit, and social justice.


 

Bill Shively was a performance poet and spiritual leader in the arts scene of the Pacific Northwest for the last 35 years. In the 1970s he moved between New York City and San Francisco, where he learned “the importance to create and perform rather than write and publish.” For several years in the 1970s he hosted the open mic series at the Sacred Grounds Café near the Panhandle a few blocks off Haight-Ashbury. In 1981, Bill was a founding board member of the Red Sky Poetry Theater, Seattle’s longest running weekly reading series, originally based in the Pike Place Market. Emphasizing performance over publication, Red Sky also featured music including The Bill Shively Band. He was the first and only “editor” of Open Sky, an “assemblage” style zine in which every contributor simply sends in 400 copies of their piece which is then compiled and bound. While in Seattle, Bill also created SkyViews magazine, which started out as a monthly newsletter with guest editors. During the mid-80s he lived for a few years in Kyoto, Japan where he hung out with Cid Corman, edited the Kyoto Journal and performed with Red Sky associate saxophonist Michael Monhart. For the last two decades Bill lived in Newberg, Oregon, with his life’s love Anna Laakso, where he taught special education in the public schools. During that time he participated in every poetry venue in Poetland, and continued his musical collaborations with Stan Cassels, Leuth Bartels, Toni Santos, Ray Coffey and Martha Armstrong, among others. For many years he and Anna hosted the legendary GoatFest at their home in Newberg.

—Casey Bush, Portland, Oregon

Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.