It’s with sadness that we report the passing of Missoula poet Patricia Goedicke, who died in her hospital room on Friday, July 14, a few minutes after 6:00 p.m. Goedicke died from pneumonia following a battle with cancer. She was 75 years old.
Her loss is one this community will feel heavily. As much as she was a great poet, Goedicke was a great mentor and friend to both students and colleagues. She could always be counted on to attend a reading and then dance the night away at a social function; she edited poems and facilitated workshops with a sustained tirelessness that was as mesmerizing as it was intimidating; she worried about her students and her friends as much, and perhaps more, than they worried about themselves. She was a poet who took conversations about writing in general and poetry in particular to levels that elucidated her passion for the craft. In a line from the title poem of her last book she wrote: “I’ve never been able to tell/where we end and earth begins beyond us.”
For more than 25 years, Goedicke taught poetry at the University of Montana, and though recently retired, she continued to teach one graduate workshop a year out of her living room. She penned 12 collections of poetry and her last book, As Earth Begins to End (Copper Canyon, 2000), was named one of the year’s 10 best books of poetry by the American Library Association. Among her other awards are the Distinguished Scholar Award from the University of Montana and the H.G. Merriam Award for distinguished contribution to the literature of Montana. She was also the recipient of numerous NEA awards, a Pushcart Prize, the William Carlos Williams Prize, and a Rockefeller Foundation Grant. Before teaching at the University of Montana, Goedicke taught at the University of Guanajuato in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for seven years.
Goedicke was last mentioned in the Independent almost a year ago (see “A Life Remembered,” Sept. 22, 2005) when she spoke about Now and Zen: A Life, the posthumously published collection of haikus by her late husband, poet and novelist Leonard Wallace Robinson. Goedicke’s reading of Now and Zen at last year’s Festival of the Book would be the last time many would hear her read. Of her late husband’s haikus, Goedicke once said, “They’re acorns fallen from a rather short but truly giant oak tree. I know, because I have the privilege of living in its shade.” Though Goedicke applied the metaphor to her husband, it’s one that her community, her students and her peers can apply to her: her poems are acorns left to us and her life provided a shade in which we once had the privilege of finding shelter.