In Memory

Judy Stedman

Judy Stedman

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07/06/10 05:50 PM #1    

Herb McLure

Judy and I had a playdate the day before she got polio. I didn't get it. We remained friends. In the late 60's and early 70's I knew her in San Francisco. She had a law degree from Stanford, a job as a public interest lawyer, a husband and an apartment above a newstand in North Beach. Judy passed the bar and the husband didn't and they got divorced. 30 years later she filled me in on the rest of her life to that time.

"I was delighted to get your e-mailand am sorry to take so long to reply. Today is Dylan's birthday which seems like the right time to write you.

"25 years ago it was the Castro and I was living with a veterinarian. After 6years we got married and moved to Petaluma, 39 miles north of SF in SonomaCounty. After 6 more years we got divorced and though I planned to move to Eugene (never having been there) I surprised myself by staying here.

"Somehow I got started writing poetry. Eventually I went
to SF State and got my M.A. in Creative Writing--which with $2.75 will get
me a cappuccino. I am an adjunct English instructor at Santa Rosa Junior
College. Roughly translated, adjunct means I will not be retiring any time
soon. It's a good thing I like my work. I started down this path thinking I
wanted to teach creative writing and that the other classes would be the
dues I had to pay. I was surprised to find I didn't enjoy the creative
writing class but loved the developmental classes. No expectations: I've got
the concept intellectually but not behaviorally. My students are late
bloomers, immigrants, non-academics. I'm a missionary, winning converts to
reading and writing.
"I intend to spend some of my summer leisure
time submitting work to poetry journals and putting together a manuscript.
I do not have a single submission out at the moment which is stupid
cowardice. I hate the rejections but I¹ve had work published in decent
places, New York Quarterly, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Northeast Journal, and
something in your area, Bogg, in Arlington, Virginia, plus many SF Bay area
journals. Are you a poetry reader? Do you know Carolyn Forche¹s work? She
teaches at George Mason University. She did a weekend workshop in Berkeley
several years ago that I went to. I liked her immensely and admire her
courage in drastically changing her style. She was a leading mainstream
poet. Then she came out with a more experimental book, The Angel of History.
She lost a lot of mainstream readers, and many experimental readers thought
of her as too mainstream to interest them so they ignored the book. I tend
more toward the middle than the edge, but I'd read whatever she writes. I
trust her mind and her heart. If I won the lottery I¹d spend a year in
Fairfax taking classes from her. Then I¹d spend a year at NYU studying with
Sharon Olds. They are two of my favorites. I realize that my work is not at
their level, but I do like the writing process, the impulse, the revising,
the process almost as much as the product."
Here are three of Judy's poems.
                We wake, if we ever wake at all ,to mystery,
            rumors of death, beauty, violence.
                                                                Annie Dillard
Emerging from anesthesia
a Tampa man who’d entered the hospital
to have his right foot amputated
learned that doctors had taken
the wrong foot.
Is this what
John Cage meant
by indeterminacy?                         
To see if his photos stood
the test of form
viewed them upside down.
Maybe it was close to midnight
between songs
when the disc jockey commented I hope
it all works out for that Tampa man.
Don’t you wonder what resolution
he had in mind?
I sold my sanity
to the road manager
of a reggae band from Providence,
Rhode Island. I used to think
about everything: vice and virtue,
money and justice, which comes
first--sunrise or dawn? Anyone
with a formulated idea
was my teacher. Marxism?
Sure. Matrimony? I do.
Missionary? I’ll go.
You want to know my history?
My father was caution, and Ambition
was my mother. I grew up
in a small town on a highway
to the Coast. I rode bareback
on a horse named Christmas.
At twilight he ate carrots
from my hand. Now I sleep
on Liberty Street. I appear
a crazy lady, my shopping bag full
of poems and blue beads, but poems
and beads are everything I need.
Enough. Is it fair
to ask me all these questions?
You reveal nothing
of your own story.
You hide behind your mask
of Reader, hoping I’ll unlock
your secret passages. But
I have no keys. All I have
up my sleeve are riddles.
                 (for A.S. Byatt)
I want to win the lottery and I want
to fall in love again. I want my name
erased from the lists of telephone
solicitors. I want all opera
sung in Italian, no tenor
should be humiliated, singing I miss
my little doggy. I want world peace.
I want to remember if I took
my estrogen today. I want old rugs,
good wines, comfortable shoes. I want
flannel sheets in winter and linen ones
in summer. I want counter space.
I want men to get pregnant. I want good
gums. I want to look elegant in jeans.
I want country singers to go into therapy.
I want to carry a tune. I want jails
to be humane and I want teachers
to be better paid than prison guards.
I want the Democrats to quit
acting like Republicans. I want tobacco
tycoons to smoke till they drop.
I want to eat more broccoli. I want
the Lebanese grocer to quit wishing me
good luck and sell me the winning ticket.

09/30/11 06:00 PM #2    

Ralph Bell

I first met Judy on 6th Street as I delivered her Tempe Daily News... she giggled when I collected from her mother and she was in the room... silly girl.  But when we started High School Judy was a voice on the telephone intercom... bedridden with polio.  By the next year, Judy was attending classes with her constant companion Brenda Batchelor.  I competed with Judy in classes for top grades not always successfully.. our friend Robert Weaver competed in Math and swore that he did not study.  Judy and I surely did study...

I remember the football dances in the Gym and how shy she was (me too) but I always tried to dance with her at least once...  After HS Robert joined the Navy so I drove to Treasure Island where he was training.  Together we drove to Stanford and found Judy... she was totally surprised.  What fun. 

Judy attended the TUHS 40th and we three reminisced again .  Judy led off with her "married twice, divorced twice."  She invited me to Petaluma CA and I went to see her in her small house.... it was full of books and I moved some so I could sit... Judy drove an older  turquoise Mercury Zephyr car with a "speed knob" on her steering wheel... She drove me to a cafe in Santa Barbara where she was a regular... for dinner and wine... we talked all night and early AM I made my way back to the airport, promising to return for the Annual Petaluma Poetry Walk... Which I did with Robert Weaver. 

Sadly Judy passed away 22 May 2003, before the Annual Poetry Walk... Susan Coulson (Condon) called me with the news of Judy's passing and I flew back right away... We had a very nice memorial service... Judy was a Professor of English at the local college and had many friends, teachers, poets and students... I spoke briefly about her exceptional life... especially her life in Tempe before she moved to Petaluma... Judy's niece Kelly lives in Seattle and has stayed in contact... as did her mentor Gerri, now the Marin County Poet Laureate. 

Robert Weaver met  me in San Francisco the following year and we attended the Petaluma Poetry Walk in Judy's memory... and we ate at her favorite restaurant "Yoshi's" in Jack London Square, Oakland... "Yoshi's" has a jazz band uniquely combining Japanese and American musical instruments...

Judy's old home on 6th Street in Tempe is now on the Historical Register.  You may have dined there at "Tricks" and sat in Judy's old living room... memories and good food.

I have a nature trail along Mud Creek where I built a small Wishing Well with Judy Stedman engraved on a brass plate.  When Robert  Weaver died I placed another brass plate on the opposite end of the Wishing Well... Judy is gone but never forgotten.  Rest in peace.

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