Shocked just now to learn of the news of David’s death… I live the same kind of busy & involved life as most, so I tend to assume relationships with & longevity of a great many people who’re not part of the day-to-day. I guess I havent been in touch with David for ages. This sad news underlines that fact. We’d corresponded since about 1971 or so. I published him in either last issue or so of my Southampton/UK based mag, Earth Ship, or in its Australian incarnation, The Ear In A Wheatfield, maybe even later in The Merri Creek Or Nero… And my brother Bernard published a chapbook in his Stingy Artist (UK) series… I actually got to meet David & Cecilia in London, –it was Autumn, 1987, my first visit to England since 1975. Here we were, two Englishmen in London, me who’d gone to Melbourne/Australia in 1966, David who’d gone to Canada and then the USA. We had a lot to talk about on various themes, not least that of the expat or emigre. My deepest condolences to Cecilia & David’s family, and also from my brother Bernard… I’ll put something up on my blog. And spend some time now with his writing.
Where were you in 1969? I was David Bromige’s neighbor on Burnside Road in Sebastopol. David lived on Pharaoh’s Lane. His son Chris came up from Albany on the weekends with his best friend Nathan LaForce, who also became my good friend. I have vivid memories of David’s house: wedding pictures, sturdy tongue-and-groove walls, Eucalyptus trees, and a baby deer that we fed with a milk bottle. For years thereafter, Chris, Nathan, my brother Markus, and I, shared David’s house and table.
David once recounted a moment shared between the two of us back then. I was a little kid. He was the poet. One day I said: “I wish I was a bug down in the grass and I could look all around.” David told me he was taken by my fanciful journey into an alternative point of view. It made me feel really good to hear that story.
We often met at a country pond, near both our houses, overlooking ten miles of golden hills rolling out to the Pacific Ocean. The Bromiges always packed a delightful lunch of grapes, crackers, and cheese. Expensive homes now dot the enclosed landscape, but back then the hills of Sebastopol were a wide open playground for swimming, walking, and watching the fog roll in.
When David moved into town, Chris, Nathan, Markus, and I, would routinely sleep over either at David’s place, or back up on Burnside Road. At night, David read chapters from the Horatio Hornblower nautical adventure series. Twenty years later, at a Christmas party in the mid-1990s, David again read the chapter “An Even Chance” from the book Midshipman Hornblower. To know David was to know a man who loved to play piano, listen to music, drink wine, talk with friends, stay up late, immerse himself in a creative universe, and read fiction to grown children.
When David was not swimming his mile at the city pool, he loved to garden. I remember one day in the late 1970s. We were all touring his garden. I was picking my nose. My nostril rendered a half-gooey morsel. I was walking just ahead of everyone and managed to scrape off my unwanted visitor on the top of a tall garden stake at the end of a row. I looked over my shoulder with a guilty conscience only to witness David deftly removing my deposit with a long, brawny finger. He never said a word.
He did say some words at my wedding in 2002. I asked David to read a poem of his choosing as part of the ceremony. He chose Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 on the subject of marriage. It was resplendent moment under a large oak tree on a dry grassy knoll in Kenwood. David’s wife Cecelia and daughter Margaret were beautiful in bright colored satin dresses. My friend Onye Onyemaechi, the holy man who presided over the ceremony, asked the guests for spontaneous contributions to the ceremony, Margaret stepped forward and delivered a smooth, full-throated, spine-tingling version of the George Gershwin classic “Summertime.”
And the livin’ is easy
I last saw David in the rainy season of early 2005. For a brief spell I lived again on Burnside Road. David and Chris drove up to visit me and my infant daughter Eleanor. It was a grand reunion on English Hill. David accepted a small glass of wine, and some cheese with crackers. Chris gently rocked Eleanor’s entire body in the cradle of his long forearm. At the time I was a stay-at-home dad. Eleanor had been crying a lot. David asked me if I knew how to sing to the baby. I answered: “When you are taking care of a baby you damn well better learn how to sing – and dance!” We all shared a good laugh.
For me, David was first and foremost a lifelong family friend. He was also an institution who helped keep me wedged into the world properly. He connected me to my cultural and political roots in San Francisco, and Berkeley, where I was born in the mid-1960s. He connected me to Jack Kerouac, the Beatles, and the British Navy. For me, he was a loyal patriarch with a sly sense of humor. When David died a large hole opened up in my heart. It will remain open until I join him someday on the banks of a country pond, eating grapes, listening to the red-wing blackbirds, watching the clouds.
We come in on a wing and a prayer and we leave on them
Hello Red Leader
The Squadron is late and one of our aircraft is missing
I still hear the smile of the old Wing Commander
as we push on through the darkness
Somewhere in the skies over somewhere I am sure he holds a steady course for home
A drunken bicycle in a lane
along a green field of forever
the dust of old England
thrashed by the rain
nourished by the sun
a welcoming Inn
polish up the flagons here is fresh wit and discourse
Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone, cricket and the stumps of empire Roger Livesey, Michael Wilding
Sir Walter Scott, and others too an aged obverse of Good Bye Mr Chips
Like the final reel of a Gainsborough film that never left our hearts
Cheerio old Chap!
We’ll be there soon enough!
Wingin and prayin
I never knew David.
I have known
through a number of those here,
through a number of those not here,
through many years
a mere part
of some concentric ring
by you blessed.
Poets are not to be trusted
but the ring is.
May he carry on
where he is
I have hesitated for some time about giving my comments and recollections, feeling that it might not be appropriate for a former wife to do so, but my son. Christopher, tells me he thinks I have something to add to the picture. The Vancouver era has not been described, and it is my belief that David’s years in Vancouver formed much of the basis for what came afterward.
I met David soon after his separation from his first wife, Anne Livingston. A blind date was engineered by Fred Hill, an individual about whom many stories have been told (and most, though fantastic, are true), and Patricia Manzer, the mother of the twins who were later immortalized in one of David’s early published poems. At the time we met, David was eking out a living working as a night desk clerk in a small downtown hotel, and was also on call,. during the day, for work as a substitute teacher. Fortunately, he could sleep for a few hours on the night job.
David apparently decided that it was up to him to educate me about the post-WWII literary and theatrical world. He had just come back from a year in London, where Anne had been studying drama. I had been totally unaware of “The Angry Young Men” and had no idea, for instance, who John Osborne, or Kinglsey Amis, were. For that matter, I had never heard of Ingmar Bergman, either. I’d completed my four years of Arts, for a B.A. in History and English, and had gone on to a degree in Law, but my exposure to modern poets had stopped at Eliot and Pound.
In one of our first evenings, David read “Look Back in Anger” to me, and patiently explained WHY the new generation of bright young men, ones who had been pulled out of their working class backgrounds and given upper-class educations, were angry with a system which did not accept them.
From the beginning, it was obvious that David was unhappy with his present situation. The hotel job was, of course, simply a stopgap, but substitute school teaching was not much better, I’m sure the kids loved him, because he’d read them “Winnie the Pooh”, using all his voices and accents for the different characters, but he had little interest in trying to follow the curriculum. He needed to go back to university. We eventually decided to live together. I would continue to work, and he would go back to school. We found a coach house in Shaughnessy (a part of Vancouver where there were still old mansions with outbuildings for the servants and carriages) and David returned to UBC.
Things happened quickly after that. Even though he was still substitute teaching, and therefore was often missing lectures, David became involved with the Ubyssey, the student newspaper, and decided to submit a critique of a play we had attended. This attracted so much attention that the Ubyssey set up the “Critics’ Page”, with David as editor. We attended not only the musical and dramatic events that were taking place on campus, but most of the downtown theatrical events as well, and David began writing reviews for the Vancouver Sun newspaper, and doing radio pieces on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. His comments were often far from laudatory. I can remember going to an opening of a play at the York Theatre on Broadway, a converted movie house. On the marquee, instead of the name of the play, the lettering said “David Bromige Does Not Exist”.
As editor, David took real pleasure in discovering new talent. I remember him speaking of a bright young man who had come to him asking if he were interested in adding a music critic to his roster. David said “sure”. and arranged for complimentary tickets to the next performance of the Vancouver Symphony. That young man was Bill Littler, who is still writing music criticism for the Toronto Star.
Of course, David was continuing to write poetry, and was being encouraged by two faculty mentors, Earle Birney and Warren Tallman. A conversion in his writing came about when he discovered William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, et.al.
I must break off at this point, but hope to continue my version of history in another segmen
It is so good to read this story of your life in Vancouver at that time. I am Adrienne, daughter of Harry and Jessie Webb, and have been looking into this time in their lives, as part of writing a book about their art. I have wonderful memories of times in Dundarave when you and David would visit us at the beach.
I just posted the following to my blog. We will be thinking of you with love tomorrow!
In the 14 years and two months since we – my wife, my then-three-year-old sons & I – first moved to Pennsylvania, there have really been just two moments when it felt like hell to be so distant from the Bay Area. The first occurred early in 1996, still in the depths of our first real winter here, when Larry Eigner died. The second will be this Sunday, when there will be a memorial service for David Bromige at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastapol from 1:00 to 4:30 pm (further details, with map, behind that link).
David was like an older brother to me, tho looking at those dates above I realize that he is closer to my parents’ age – six years younger than my dad, seven than my mother – than he is to mine. There is nothing I have written in the 41 years since I first met him that doesn’t have some tinge of his influence about it somewhere, even to my use of ampersands or the spelling of tho at the beginning of this paragraph, a last nod to what I once heard David call Robert Duncan Spelling, tho Duncan got it from Pound as Pound did from Blake, etc., an acknowledgement of the changeable and personal dimensions of language. And of a heritage that reaches back centuries, to the days when Shaxberd cld spell his name any way he damn pleased. Or pleas’d. Or pleasd.
When the first issue of This came out in 1971, David had already published six books. David never once played the “I’m the older poet” card with us youngsters, and if he could easily have garnered more fame had he just stayed what he had been in his youth – the heir apparent to whole SF Renaissance scene – he moved on from that with no sign of a second thought. His first appearance in This, in its third issues in 1972, was a far cry from the circuitous sentences & magesterial line breaks that had characterized his earlier books. Instead, he presented a series of six works from a larger (and I believe otherwise unpublished) project called “Homage to N. Rosethal.” One piece was a single word: prettier. Two others were works of a single line, including the epic Get off my tits. One was a couplet as complex & mysterious as any two-line work I’ve ever read:
light work but
You have to hear how that couplet opens & closes around the liquids of the two els that bracket this work to appreciate just how fine David’s ear could be. At one level, this poem might be read as being “about” writing, but at another, deeper level, it’s a celebration of the a sounds in its second line. Nor is the vowel sequence of the first – i, o, u – any less exquisite. Ditto the way hard consonants shut each one-syllable word of the first line, yet appear just twice – at the opening of dear and within materials.¹ David makes this look / sound effortless, but clearly it’s not. It’s a compression of formal detail at a level of force a new formalist, so-called, couldn’t even imagine. Just two years after Melnick & I weren’t sufficiently courageous to gamble on Robert Grenier in the Chicago Review, this couplet shows that David’s not only reading Grenier, but thoroughly gets it, to a degree that would take some of us (me, for example) several years still.
I think David held his relationship to what was soon to be known as language poetry every bit as lightly he did his relation to the New American Poetry. What was interesting about this new work evolving in San Francisco interested him; whatever he found tedious, was easily ignored. When his doctoral committee at Berkeley balked at the first draft of his dissertation – it wasn’t sufficiently tailored to the MLA idea of prose – David decided that it was the degree itself that was unnecessary. He had what he needed to stay at Sonoma State & he’d done the thinking that was the actual core of the project. The rest ultimately was unimportant. As I think the many statements that can be read at the David Bromige website his son Chris has put up make clear, teaching for David was really about his students. He showed no interest in using the position to build a power base or an institution.
David had two gifts that stuck with him throughout his life. First, he had the best sense of the tension between line or linebreak & the sentence of any writer I have read. He might have learned this from Duncan, Creeley & Olson, but it was something he took deeper than any of his masters. Which may be why, when he started producing the little prose poems of Tight Corners & What’s Around Them, many of his devoted readers gasped. For the master of the line to forego his most powerful tool underscored just how serious he was about moving on as a poet.
Bromige’s second gift was that he was the finest reader I’ve ever heard. His voice, a warm baritone, combined with an accent that held equal measures of his childhood in Britain, his young adulthood in British Columbia & his life as an American. As I told Carolyn Jones of the Chronicle the other day, listening to David gave you a sense of what Dickens might have sounded like as a post-avant poet. But a Dickens tempered with the likes of Louis Dudek, Fred Wah, Robert Creeley & just possibly some American noir slang as well. You can hear a number of his East Coast readings on PennSound, but for me the archetypal Bromige events were always the ones in the Bay Area where David might know as much as 75% of the audience personally. David’s give & take with the audience between poems was as much a part of his presence as the poems themselves. All I have to do to hear David at his best, is just to think of them – they’re quite etched in my imagination, going all the way back to the reading at the Albany Public Library in 1968 where I first heard David, reading with Harvey Bialy & introduced by Paul Mariah. David Perry, a Bard grad & acolyte of Robert Kelly who was a fellow student of mine at San Francisco State, had coaxed me out to that event so that I could hear Bialy, who was fine. But it was the other reader, with this not quite British, not quite placeable accent, with this resonant voice & fine wit, who flat out blew me away. 41 years later, that remains one of the most eventful readings in my life.²
So this Sunday, starting at 1:00 PM Pacific Time, I will be turning my heart & my thoughts toward Sebastapol & toward the great gift that was David Bromige and to the people who loved him.
¹ Really at the start of the second syllable, a “soft” echo of the d in dear, the t serves almost as a pause to set up the flourish of the couplet’s final phonemes.
² Hitchhiking on my way home afterward that night, I got a ride with another of the event’s attendees, one David Melnick, who has likewise turned into a lifelong friend & influence.
David often stayed with us in San Francisco. We would have a few drinks and talk and then David would take a book off the shelf and go into his room at a late hour. By morning he would emerge early having read most of the book and remembering virtually everything he’d read. Once I told him that he was the best reader I knew, the fastest with the finest recall. He was surprisingly moved by this. “That’s very good of you to say that.”
“I mean it.”
Quietly, with deep feeling, he said, “If you ever had occasion to say that, I would really appreciate it.”
I guess this is such an occasion.
Our deepest condolences to you all for your loss. We both remember with affection and gratitude your friendship and hospitality to us when we first visited Sebastopol in 2006, along with the poet Richard Denner, David’s collaborator in the 100 Cantos. We only wish we had had many more opportunities to enjoy his company, wisdom, and delightful conversation.
It was a particular pleasure to get to know David as well through the 100 Cantos themselves, and through them to know how much you, Cecelia, meant to him. Canto 54 says it well:
often, a man
must wait out darkness, ’til soon or late, Cecelia
shine through, a Cecelia, I hope, for any man,
patient & bold, though ill maybe, but understanding,
so that a You may come to you, & learn your love.
David Bromige was my instructor in Subject A (remedial English composition for freshmen) at UC Berkeley in 1963. I was mortified for having failed the Subject A exam, yet the course David taught was pleasurable.
I’m not going to make any pronouncement of “It turned my life around,” but make what you will of the fact that I changed my major from Civil Engineering to English
my sophomore year. I visited the Subject A office–a ramshackle frame building in the shadows of Harmon Gym and Dwinelle Hall–to talk to David about my idea of
HE didn’t make any pronouncement like “Great idea, Bruce, I’m sure you’ll do well.” I recall he said “hmmm.”
Well, I did okay, and had a career of teaching high school English for 20 years. I count David, pictured in my mind’s eye as Oscar Wild-ish wearing a velvet (probably corduroy) suit, as a special mentor.
Feel free to use this memoir-snippet any way you wish.
Janice called to let me know about your loss the afternoon we were leaving as a family for a vacation in Europe. I tell you that so you know I couldn’t just dash off a quick note to you – words should be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. I hope your David would understand that and forgive me.
You were together as long as Bill and I have been and I can only imagine the hole that must be in your heart. And your family’s heart.
Thoughts going through my head – spending the day with David when business brought me to San Francisco. I remember thinking that he was a combination of dashing Englishman and absent-minded professor. Considering we had only just met, you’d think spending the day with a virtual stranger would have been slightly awkward but it was quite lovely. He was the consummate tour guide – full of information about San Francisco (though it could have all been made up but with that accent, how could you not believe?). It was a wonderful day.
But, mostly on that day I think I saw the man you fell in love with. Charming, sweet, handsome and with a wit to match yours. It made perfect sense.
Cecelia and David.
The next time I saw you both was with my children just a few years back and David was clearly not doing as well as the last time we had met. You were as beautiful as ever, a gracious hostess and made us feel welcome despite the fact that it was obvious you had your hands quite full. I came away from that evening with a different impression of you – stronger than I had ever remembered. Betty Crocker would have been proud.
Las Vegas. Ah, that’s where you go to get away from the hectic craziness of life to relax….. Well, maybe the venue was poorly picked but it was still a time to reconnect with friends who knew you when life was just beginning and remembered who you were, not just who you became. You were always the sophisticate of our trio, so to find a handsome poet 20 years your senior and fall madly in love, once again made perfect sense.
You and David have had a life well-lived. Beautiful daughter Margaret. I wish you could have had longer but you certainly could not have had better.
(Editor’s note: this thread seems to be a thread that appeared on Nick Piombino’s blogspot which he has kindly copied to here–thanks Nick — http://nickpiombino.blogspot.com)
David Bromige, a friend whose writing and spirit I much admired and was grateful for, had a way of saying things sometimes that I still think of, again and again, years later. Once we were talking about irony. Later in the conversation I had occasion to mention that I used to have a great repugnance for doing anything twice the same way. But, given the direction my life had eventually taken, becoming more and more bound to a tight schedule, I told him I had given in, but had switched over to the opposite and now did as many things every day as much as possible exactly in the same way. “But, NIck”, he said, in his witty yet warm way, “that itself is a kind of irony, an irony of action.”
Posted by Nick Piombino at 7:31 PM
Tom Beckett said…
What a great anecdote. And absolutely the sort of thing David would say. The line of his I’ve never been able to get out of my head (I think it’s from _American Testiment_) is “Terror is mostly error.”
STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said…
thanks NIck, great David line (and true too — I find now too, as time goes along….
Nick Piombino said…
After reading your comments, Tom and Stephen, I went frantically looking for my copy of David Bromige’s selected, titled Desire (I don’t like to alphabetize my books). The first two lines in the first poem (“Revolving Door”) read:
Measured by ourselves alone, grief
Overwhelms, it cannot be contained
Contained, indeed, and transformed by each other’s memories. And, the poems! We’re not alone.
Dear Cecelia & family, I first met David at a reading by Meltzer and Rothenberg at the Beat Museum late 2006. I was struck by his presence, and introduced myself. As we began to talk he sat, and then with gesture and tone blending worry, pride, love, he watched Cecelia go by, and said something like, “She looks bothered.” The utter graceful concern made me feel I was with Herrick or Waller. And then getting to know Cecelia too at the readings we did at Moe’s over the next couple of years: what a lively, wonderful couple.
I’ve also been happy to publish David’s work in Golden Handcuffs Reviews #’s 8 and 10. The latter is an extensive selection of his work by Meredith Quartermain, and a fine essay by Meredith on him, “Irony’s Eye.” (www.goldenhandcuffsreview.com)
He’s one of the great writers of our time. All our love to Cecelia and family. Lou
I miss you David,
your smile, your wit, your gentle way, how you always made me feel special. I loved your stories about England, the war, living with an Irish family. You said you were writing about that family and would come to my sister Nancys bar in the city and read it. David, all those Irish people at the 3300 club on 29th and Mission are waiting for you. I am so happy I got to know you David! I’m honored. I will miss your humor and that you were such a man David, such a man with class. How you carried yourself even in difficult times and how you loved cecelia.
David was one of the brightest stars in my sky. I already miss him a lot. So many things he said to me over the years — about writing, people, the world — became part of my view of things. I realize now I quoted him all the time — I remember once he said, in that cynical but amused way of his, “at a certain point, you’re stuck with your old friends, because they’re the only ones who really know you and vice versa” — and while I never felt “stuck” with him that was something that certainly became true for us, and I often repeated it. I quoted his poems a lot, too. “Everything happens for the first time ever.” “…where mine and the general nightmare mesh.” “‘I’m sorry…’” I guess you would call that an “influence,” but he was more than that — he was a great friend, collaborator and one of the most brilliant, hilarious, generous, open, warm people I have ever known. I was privileged to know him.
Back in 1965, when Ray Neinstein and I were undergraduates in Berkeley, David introduced us to a world I never thought I would actually know, a world that included Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Michael McClure, Ron Loewinsohn, Charles Olson, Gary Snyder…a world that I had thought, at 17, was just words on paper suddenly was populated with actual people. Everything changed after that. David welcomed me into that world and shared whatever he thought might be worth knowing.
He was so curious about everyone and everything and everybody that he always wanted to know and meet *my* old friends, too. He had such a huge capacity — DESIRE — for information! And the ability to somehow keep it all in his head, swirling around in different permutations, examining every possibility…sometimes to the extent that it didn’t just make everyone else around him dizzy — but him, too, and then there could be trouble. But he usually got himself out of those tight corners, especially with help of you, Cecilia!
Over the years, we always kept in touch. I loved comparing notes with him about Vancouver after I moved there and met so many of his old friends – a whole other world. I don’t think I ever would have written a story if it hadn’t been for David and I know those stories would not have come out the way they did if it hadn’t been for him. And after I wrote them, David took me seriously, which was very important. He always encouraged me.
I have so many great memories of sitting around apartment(s) and house(s) with him, writing songs, reading poems aloud, drinking, eating, elevating, meeting new people. He sure had a great laugh. I can hear it now — but only in my head. I wish I could hear it again.
i’m so sorry to hear this – and so sorry that i haven’t been in
california since my visit almost three years ago. i loved david -
he was almost my only friend among the graduate students at berkeley
when i arrived in the fall of 1962 at the age of 21. he was about 27
and was marvelously advanced – a mature man, indeed, married to joan
(please remember me to her), and soon to have son chris. he took me
under his wing. cheered me up. encouraged me.
we spent endless afternoons and evenings drinking together at
robbie’s and other bars on telegraph, at parties at frank and asenith
windorski’s, at joan’s and his apartment, and wherever there was
excitment and talk – all the while in intense discussions of gawain
and the green knight, the pearl poet, with scattered wonderful
readings by david of creely, duncan, lowensohn, et. al. somehow, we
completed our m.a. degrees.
he was a bit bemused and appalled when i took a steep turn into
psychedelics and zen, but even accompanied me to visit the san
francisco zen center in 1971, commenting on how shiny and clean the
zen students looked. he suggested it was an unfortunate consequence
of a vegetable diet.
it’s been a sadness to me to live so far away and get so rarely to
california to see david – but i often saw his face and heard his
voice in my memory and in my heart. and i always will. i can’t read
creeley’s lovely poems “for love” and “i know a man” and “ballad of
the despairing husband” without hearing them in david’s wonderful,
Homage to Bromige
Armed with a quick wit and keen intellect, David became a deserved senior disciple of the Black Mountain School of Poetry under the guidance of noted mentor and scholar Robert Duncan.
During our 27-year friendship, David and Cecilia (his beautiful, dutiful marriage-companion) often invited my wife Ellen and myself from Oakland up to the flower-world of first Santa Rosa, then later Sebastopol to share with them good red wine and one of Cecilia’s winning culinary delights, over which we would talk travel, music and current events in our own semantic way.
David was always open to literary experiment of all kinds and particularly collaboration. In 1986 we twinned up on a long two-part poem entitled “You See” which was not only published by the Exempli Gratia Prss but read in public in a way that had us switch voices (David read my verses, I read his). After the stroke of winter 2001, David bravely and resolutely prepared for the inevitable. He had two wishes. One was to push along with his memoir which (as it turned out) sadly never reached beyond his first romantic encounters with women, a place in his life that gave him extreme pleasure. The second was his desire to become an American citizen. His thinking was that after his demise, he wanted the contemporary literary milieu to think of him as being a poet devoted to the advancement of American letters. Sadly, there was never time for him to pass through the lengthy paperwork process and the pantomime of swearing allegiance to the flag. Surely, it doesn’t matter, I said to him. Your closest friends and legions of admiring students will always remember you as a gentle and inspired American.”
It was so wonderful to get to spend some time with you and David last summer in Sebastopol — sitting out in the front yard in the hot California summer sun, drinking tea and talking while bees buzzed around and flowers flowered. I know it was a short visit and it’s too bad because I was really hoping to be able to have a longer visit this year, having more time than last. But I think David already knew he might not last a year — I remember saying “See you next summer,” and David’s reply of “Of course, I might not last that long, you know.” Light in tone, but truly known I think — but never with a drop of that smile of the ultimate pleasantness of the moment.
He will always be one of the loveliest people I have ever known.
I’ve been trying to write something about David that I feel is up to snuff — i.e. that I feel in some way conveys the weight of his friendship and conscious influence on me — but it’s been difficult because everything I can write becomes the patter of words and the strange thing, it turns out, is that even though what was so important about David was his facility with language, what I’m thinking about now most is the sound of his voice, the beautiful subtlety of his smile, the way he ran his fingers through his beard, and his ever-present boyishness. A delight in all things.
I’ll miss David greatly, in every way.
I’ve posted a longer piece about David on my wordpress site, and I’ll just leave a link here, instead of reproducing the whole, long thing.
I first met David in January of 1972. I had graduated from Davis the preceding June and had moved back to Sonoma County sometime in November, after failing to enjoy a Tahoe autumn where the temperature hit 26 below. The only thing that was holding me together, if I was indeed whole, was my writing; but I needed an outlet, so I went to Sonoma State to see if there was a place I could read my poetry. After a short search, I heard about David’s poetry writing class and so I went and explained my situation and that I was not a (registered) student and David said, “No problem. I’m sure there’ll be some empty seats, take one of those.” David has always been generous and inclusive with me, and FUN. He allowed me to show up at his writing class for three semesters until I moved to San Francisco. We kept in touch, although during some periods not as well as during others. I got to meet Cecelia and Chris and Margaret and to think of you as friends. I got to go to a lot of parties after David’s readings which I probably never would have been invited to otherwise. I am grateful I’ve met several poets and friends through David.
I am so grateful that I was able to see David regularly these last few years. It is Thursday as I write this. I cherished my Thursdays at One-ish with David. We would go to Coffee Cats and I got to read his weekly installments of his memoirs, ‘Til There Was You. He would read my prose and remark or play off of something I said. He finished his first draft, even getting to go to Africa at the end, which he never did. “Well, I always wanted to, there’s some poetic reality to that!” he said, laughing. Later, I read to him from the Duncan-Levertov correspondence. I didn’t know Robert had been the one who had advised David to go to Berkeley when he received a scholarship in Vancouver; or that while at Berkeley, David had been Denise Levertov’s TA, as well as Thom Gunn’s. David appears a few times in these letters, they both read and liked his books. At first, he was amazed at the clarity and intensity of their letters and how reminiscent it was of them for him. After a few hundred pages, he said, “This is all well and good, but move ahead. I want to know what split them up!”
Unfortunately, his memoirs never went beyond the first draft stage. We worked on it a few times this spring when he was up to it. I was beginning to type out the handwritten pages and read them to him. He usually closed his eyes as I read and his head would drop. Sometimes he fell asleep, but usually when I asked for a comment, I was surprised (amid some “dementia,” such as last year’s “the other Sebastopol” which I’m still personally dealing with) by his clarity. The last time was, I think, just three weeks ago. I was reading to David about his first day alone and out of England. He was in Copenhagen, taken by his guide to all the tourist spots. After I read him his chapter, he said he needed to say more about the Tivoli Gardens and asked if I would take dictation. This is what I took down from him:
Tivoli Gardens is the name that formed my lasting impressions of Copenhagen. It was full of merriment with fanciful decorations, all manner of distraction and palm trees to gaze up into. Everyone seemed to be there to have a good time. Here were railroad tracks, vast vistas to enfold you, and surprises of every kind. And just imagine having such a playground to play in.
And what was unusual about this park was the contained friendliness of its inhabitants. I can’t speak for all times, but whenever I was there, the behavior of the natives was naturally cunning. It was as though everyone there apprehended his or her role as a performer, acted out this role to the full. The ducks, the drakes, the living specimens of the ages, festooned their announcements with allure. Bands played in more than one hollow and to be young there, was to catch the excitement of every passing glance and form scenarios—shocking elsewhere yet apparently attainable in the park’s interior. That arm extended to you had no ulterior motive. It was an invitation to dance, and what could be more of a blessing than that. Partnership perched in the leaves that abounded the slopes where we dancers showed off.
The band was taking its beat from the tympani. Running in threes and fours, the dancers broke up any sage amount of their activity & scattered in dew drops.
Perhaps I’m being selfish, since this was one of my last memories of David, the poet, I choose to think of David waiting for us in Tivoli Gardens. This was such a wonderfully wrought memory. I know David didn’t believe in a hereafter. He couldn’t after his isolation at the TB hospital as an infant and the terror of hearing the bombs drop and explode during the London blitz as a child. I don’t know if I could, had that been my experience. He would always kid with me when I referenced something “other worldly” in my writing, though I definitely read a spiritual aspect in his writing that was anchored to earthly experience and being alive. It is all very real for me. So I’m thinking of David here. Of course, David’s language/thought has always been open, he’s left us clues to check “Africa” and “the other Sebastopol” too.
i am sure we have met once or twice through david, likely at one of those readings or parties after his readings, but i remember more the way he spoke of you and the frequency of it, always with respect and appreciation for your friendship and your willingness to extend your interest and personality into his life. thank you for this rich and fascinating reminiscence, and for working so often and so regularly with david in his late years on writing and on enjoying companionship together. i have deeply appreciated your presence in his life, especially in these past years. the memoir you helped him with and are perhaps still working on typing up will be terribly dear to many of us, as is the astonishingly lucid and dreamy piece he dictated to you in your last meeting. thanks for sharing it.
In 1996, I wrote to David Bromige asking him for a blurb to my first collection of poems because he was one of the poets I admired (and admire) most. We had never met, he knew nothing about me, save for my manuscript, yet he wrote a incredibly generous and perceptive paragraph. I felt lucky then (and now) to have words by the author of the great “My Poetry” and so many other books on one of mine. I’m saddened to hear of his death.
I worked with David Bromige seven or eight years ago at Disguise the Limit in Santa Rosa. I was a student at Sonoma State University at the time. We worked in the basement, costume rental portion of the store. He dressed up as Bluebeard the Pirate. We talked about poetry. He was very good at being a pirate, and very funny.
(the first part written and sent on June 5)
dear david’s family, i was shocked to hear today that david is gone. i was thinking about him yesterday, thinking he was not so far away from ukiah, down there in sebastopol, sitting in the garden. he helped me enormously back in the early 90s when i was MA’ing at SSU, with encouragement and intelligence, information new and exciting to me, and perhaps most of all with seeing me, accepting me as a poet when i was unsure what manner of beast i was. he was really the first person who seemed to understand and appreciate what i was doing. he named me “language poet,” and i gratefully accepted the appelation.
his teaching was inspiring: mina loy, for instance, became fascinating for me, and i wrote a paper on herself and wilhelm reich. even his misunderstandings opened new possibilities–he thought i was writing by translating english into the weird languages i make up, and i wrote a whole poem of the original plus sound translations on the basis of it.
even the difficult interactions we had–his being angry that i still wanted him to be my thesis director when he was in the midst of retiring–he slammed his office door in my face–resolved themselves. when i reminded him by email years later, he was deeply apologetic and chagrined. i appreciated and respected that humility and generosity tremendously and continue to do so.
i haven’t talked to him since 2000 when a couple of friends and i met him for coffee when we were passing through sebastopol–i went to raise my kids and do a ph.d. in hawai’i and am recovering in ukiah–but i’ve gone on being so grateful for the opening and the help with identity and worth, his belief in me as a poet.
i wrote this poem to david in november 1992, purely out of love for his support and encouragement as my teacher and mentor.
Fellow, dear, I see you shining. Compatriot, fairweather, silver lining. Cheek moss pull in, in, blow out. Cheek pull in, in, blow out. Zephyr, green zephyr mouth.
Melt along boundary lines, feel your way. No haste, no need to market time. Mad for love, in spring–cuckoo call–April haunted by a bird. Shadowboxing history, mine.
Feathers flying, tiny spiders, webs–strung on sunshine. Prowling greenwood beeheaded in a nether world. All trees speak to Opal and to me, garden gathering.
Destine fat orb–sweet waiting days no motion. Slowmo through fields meadowsweet. Dear dirigible heart.
I remember first contacting David, asking him if he’d like to visit Tucson to give a reading. I remember how gracious he was in helping to arrange his visit. That was May 1997. We barely scraped together enough money to pay for his flight back to California.
I remember David’s first night in Tucson, shopping with him for instant oatmeal and fruits and flowers at Safeway.
I remember he stayed at the Poetry Cottage on Cherry Avenue, gone now.
I remember, in the Poetry Cottage living room, pointing out a framed print of a Jess collage announcing a Robert Duncan reading in Berkeley. I remember feeling both embarrassed and exhilarated when he smiled and said, “I was at that reading.”
I remember going to the gym with David, and how he loved to swim.
I remember talking with David about metonymy while he sat in bathing trunks at the edge of the jacuzzi.
I remember his talk on Jackson Mac Low and Robert Grenier. I remember how lively the talk was, the way people held themselves, leaning forward in their chairs, engaged.
I remember David didn’t carry any of his books with him, preferring instead to visit the Poetry Center library and pull copies of his books off the shelves to read from later that day.
I remember David ordering fish and chips at Kingfisher, joking about whether they’d measure up to the real thing.
I remember how he held together a long table at the bar with his talk and his listening. His humor and anecdotes and a great feeling of community.
I remember misreading the T-shirt as “LIFE IS BRIEF IT STAYS HERE.”
I remember misquoting his T-shirt during my introduction to his poetry reading at Dinnerware Gallery, but I can’t remember what I misremembered.
I remember David bending over on a narrow desert trail to look closely at a cactus. As he bent forward, a cactus on the other side of the trail stuck him in the arse. I remember that as he stood up, the cactus in front of him stuck his hand. I remember “It’s a farce!”
Driving back toward the city, I remember something that looked like black lightning flash across the road and disappear into the desert. I remember David leaning forward in the backseat. “What was that!?”
I remember “Stop the car!”
I remember before we could explain what it was–a coachwhip, one of the fastest snakes on earth–David was out the door, camera in hand, running off after the snake.
I remember watching David run into the desert and thinking Wild West.
I remember we found the snake a few minutes later, up in a mesquite tree.
I remember David taking a picture of the snake in the mesquite tree and wondering if he was standing too close.
I remember David taking a picture of the audience after his reading and not wondering whether he was standing too close.
I remember thinking it was strange for a poet to photograph their audience. I remember later thinking it was not so strange.
I remember David’s reflexive humor and wit. His T-shirt, his cactus farce. And now this photograph he took and gave to me in turn, turning the lens around to face away from himself, the photo somehow both David and not David. Mysterious possessions and dispossessions.
I remember just last week reading Charles Alexander’s memorial post on David’s visit to Tucson and feeling grateful for what memories it helped me repossess.
I remember drinking scotch with David at Cushing Street, then visiting El Tiradito Shrine. I remember our talk about the castaway’s scattered body and memory’s wishful remembering of the scattered body of time.
Sebastopol & Santa Rosa
I remember visiting California later that year to do some readings in San Francisco and north, and staying with David and Cecelia at their house in Sebastopol.
I remember falling off to sleep in David and Cecelia’s basement and thinking I’m falling off to sleep in David and Cecelia’s basement.
I remember long talks in the backyard about poetry.
I remember a wild car ride along winding roads in the Russian River Valley, stopping to visit a half-dozen small wineries along the way.
I remember David knew people at each winery, and I remember how fluent he was in conversation about local history and flowers and trees.
I remember talking about wine with David.
I remember talking about talking about wine with David.
I remember lounging with David in the itchy grass of a winery lawn, high clouds and our heads abuzz with wine and sunlight, not talking.
I remember dinner with David and Cecelia in Santa Rosa, but I can’t remember what we ate.
I remember standing in the parking lot after dinner, looking at David from a distance and feeling some inexplicable sadness.
I remember, after dinner, reading with David in a small cafe.
I remember, after reading, drinks with David in a small, cozy bar in Sebastopol.
I remember David went to the local gym while I stayed behind in the backyard to read what he’d put in my hands: David Antin’s “Modernism and Postmodernism: Approaching the Present in American Poetry.”
I remember the last time I saw David. It was a late morning in Sebastopol, leafy shadows and summer sunlight dappling everything. I remember David preparing a spread of fruits and cheeses and breads and juice and coffee, and maybe some champagne or dessert wine.
I remember David slicing lemons at the kitchen counter.
I remember he was rereading Samuel Beckett, delighting once again in the language, as if for the first time.
I remember our correspondence falling off, 1998 or 1999.
I remember one of David’s last emails. I remember him telling me that he was feeling the loss of so many friends. I remember him saying that at his age, most of life is behind him, and at my age, most of life is before me.
I remember these acts of friendship, the candor and generosity. To say life is brief. To say, here.
Yes, I heard of your father’s death through a note that Ron Silliman sent. I am so sorry to hear this news. The image of David, Cecelia and me brings back so many good times that we shared–with you as well–memories that will
remain with me for a long time. I said as much in a post to your website, but perhaps it didn’t come through (I wasn’t sure what to do with those dashes and may have sent it to the wrong address). I’ll paste it in below, and you’re welcome to share it if you want. Please share this post with
This news has made me realize how much I wish I’d kept in touch with your father. I sent him a number of emails after his stroke, but when he didn’t reply I thought perhaps he was irritated with me or at least distanced from his former friends. I now realize that it was probably due to his physical condition and the difficulty of typing and attending to email. In short, I should have used the phone. When I see the wonderful image of David in the pool, I realize that he was very active and alive during that long period. I treasure these photos that you have printed.
Some of my fondest memories of David are of hearing him read to you in the evening in Sonoma County–the Hornblower series was a favorite I remember. On those evenings, there was such a wonderful mixture of magic, story, giddy humor, and wackiness that attended those occasions. The gift of story was perhaps his greatest gift of all. In a way he was a model for my own parenting. When my children were young and when Lori and I would read to them, I always thought of those magical evenings with you.
Lori and I offer our condolences to you and your family, near and extended.
P.S. and yes, use any photos that you wish.
Here is the note I sent originally
Dear Cecelia, Margaret and Chris,
I just learned of David’s passing yesterday and wanted to express my heartfelt sorrow at this news. Your accounts of your lives with David on Chris’s website are very moving and bring back someone who was very dear to me at an earlier time. I only wish I had stayed in touch following the period of his stroke, all the moreso now that I see his genial self in photos looking so much as I remember him. I especially prize the image of him in a swimming pool. When I think of David I see him swimming at one of the various pools, ponds and beaches that he sought out, coming out of the water dripping and grinning.
I also remember his humor which could set an entire room laughing. His verbal wit was infectious, and he usually gave everyone around him permission to get seriously outrageous. I can’t begin to account for what I learned from him as a poet-that testimony will have to wait for this news to settle in-but at the minimum he made writing an adventure, a lark, something to learn by (not learn from). In this sense, he remained a teacher long after he retired. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.
David Bromige (1933-2009)
June 12th, 2009 · 1 Comment
It is with extreme sadness and spiked loss that I mention the passing of my friend and mentor, David Bromige. He and Richard Denner “adopted” me as their would-be student two years ago, talking and writing poetry once a week during lazy days in the garden of his Sebastopol home… I wanted to be able to write a great spread of prose or poetry, honoring his sharp wit, playful creativity, and a life in words.
But for now, I will just provide some quotes I captured during our sessions, because sometimes things need time to sink in before the words come.
My love and support to his family Cecilia, Maggie & Chris.
DAVID BROMIGE QUOTES / FOUND POEMS
You can’t be a poet without being arrogant or naïve
It’s best to maintain peace as long as you can — (at some point you’ll break down and declare war) — but maintain peace as long you can.
He just disappeared! They can do that, Buddhist monks– invisibility and removing the fear of death are part of their super powers.
At the “Bromige School of Writing” that’s what we like to see – complete confidence…even if it’s shit.
(Regarding his poems:)
They must mean something to someone somewhere
Small things, the world is made up of them…small things
“i recall the house in sebastopol was protected by ‘danger archery range signs.’” Gil Helmick
“The one that sticks out for me was Clifford’s play-by-play narration of our visit to David & Cecelia’s Santa Rosa place, and the forming of the group ‘The Interruptionists.’” Bill Vartnaw
“Another big one for me personally is that he let me, a non-student, sit-in his poetry class at all.” Bill Vartnaw
“The Open Hand magazine was named by numerological techniques based on the room number in Stevenson Hall where David’s class met.” Tom Sharp
“I have one complete set of the original magazine I started under David’s faculty sponsorship in September 1971, the nameless magazine whose title took the name of the month.” Cliff Schwartz
“David started the Open Reading series of poetry readings for famous poets who were going to be in the area anyway and after each reading asked for a few poems by the poet to put together the Open Reading magazine.” Tom Sharp
In the late 70s, David & I would often run into each other at San Francisco poetry parties where alcohol was consumed, pot was smoked & someone would always set a typewriter up with a blank piece of paper in hopes of fostering collaboration, usually long & rambling exercises in gibberish.
One night, David & I huddled by the typewriter in a more minimal mood, typing the following two collabs:
Most tightrope walkers don’t die
WHO WOULDN’T BE DEPRESSED?
There you are in the 12th century,
& there’s 8 more centuries to go,
Years passed before I ran into David again at the San Francisco Book Fair where he was celebrating the publication of his Men, Women & Vehicles: Prose Works by Black Sparrow Press. The publishers were astonished to meet me, to my own bewilderment, & showed me the frontispiece to his book: “These stories are works of fiction & any resemblance between the characters & persons living or dead is purely coincidental, except for G. P. Skratz.” David himself popped up & showed me the passage on p.166 that had led to the odd disclaimer:
“That reminds me of a poem I once wrote,” Dan said. “It was a collaboration. G. P. Skratz helped me write it.”
“It’s called ‘The Blues,’” Dan went on. “It goes like so: ‘Here you sit in the 13th century. And there’s at least seven more to go.’”
I want to wait till I have read all the materials accruing to David’s memory before writing, but I also feel an imperative that I write, but I don’t know what to say, torn up and perfectly happy for him and delighted others knew him too.
I am grateful to be able to recognize David’s manner and spirit as I partook in it dialogically through my participation now and forever in daily life and its rhapsodies of hectic and dissociative, quandrous and ellipitcally entangled playing out of meaning and affiliation. In his humor nestled and bristled his most earnest and righteous devotion to the truth. I am grateful for having had such absurd and heartfelt conversations with him through diverse life circumstances, one of which we deliberately taped and provided the material basis for a collaboration as characteristically peculiar as necessary, eventually published in The Difficulties, though David couldn’t remember that in the past year, despite his hard exacting work on it about 20 years before.
I am as grateful for my telephone conversations with him these past 10 months or more, which I tried and failed to perform biweekly, in which he gloriously stayed alive in one place while winsomely traveling through diverse states and modes of relationship, without, evidently, failing to recognize me and the achingly sweet possibility that verbal communication evoked in us. Dismayed early last fall to hear him tell me his doctor predicted his demise before the new year, I insisted I would visit him when I came to California in mid-March, and, after various goings and comings in his physical residence and neurolinguistic capacities, Kit Robinson and I enjoyed a couple hours’ tender, mellow riot of connectivity with him and Cecelia and Margaret one sunny afternoon at tea. Through his writing, he remains always with us, moving in and through and from the page; like all the dead, he is more than ever manifestly everywhere we are. May he always relax, and may we all live in peace.
One day after I returned from David’s funeral, an old friend called. He said, “I loved your new book.” I said, “Yeah, and it only costs twelve bucks.” He said, in a complimentary tone, “Believe me, it would be a bargain at half the price.” Immediately I thought, I have to tell this to David.
Speechless but not without love for you all. Had just finished reading in Seattle and Sue and I were in a bar surrounded by poets when news came. Surrounded by friends it was as well.
Sue and Jim (Sue Ashline and Jim McCrary that is.)
Margaret and Cecilia,
Two strong and beautiful women. who have cared for and lived with the passionate poet that has touched a community with his talents. As these new days come and go, know that I am thinking of you both with love and support in my heart. I will always think of David sitting in the front yard of your home- sunning himself, reading a book, or petting a cat – as the kids and I walked past on your beautiful street-headed for the pool.
I love you two very much.
sorry to hear of passing of David Bromige — never met him, but enjoyed his company for several years on Wryting list — & occasional backchannels about growing up in North West London — a poet forever of Tight Corners
A great mind and generous spirit with a gentle and absurdist twist, gave of himself more-then-genuinely to poets, colleagues, students and friends. For me, the DB lives on; how not? Best to you, Cecelia and family.
Well, I am writing again, because my first tribute seems to have gone into internet limbo. Still, a great friend, DB. And Cecelia, the best friend a person could have had for many years now, since we re-met, enceinte, at some reading at SSU. And sweet Maggie, my other daughter. Anyway, you know what I said before still goes. There will never be another David, and that is fitting–there should only be one. His wit, his jokes, and his sly smile will stay in my memory, and his photo on my piano. Love, Sue
I met David while I was attending Sonoma State University on the GI Bill in the early ‘70s. I was among that group of undergraduates who were veterans and older than most incoming students, and I had already published my work in several national magazines. David and I became friends at that time because we knew so many poets in common, locally and nationally. Andrei Codrescu, Ed Dorn, Tom Raworth, Jeffrey Miller, and Hunce Voelcker were just some of the poets who were then making Sonoma County their home. I didn’t see as much of David after I graduated, but because we were both active in the literary community, we didn’t lose touch. A little less than ten years ago, a friend informed me that David had had a stroke so I sent him a card wishing him a speedy recovery. He replied with an invitation to a reading and we renewed our friendship. I’ve been making fairly regular visits to the house on High St since then. His enthusiasm for the “life” as we called it was unflagging. He always seemed to be delighted to be in the company of other writers. I recall seeing him at a gathering of poets maybe five years ago. He was seated in the shade of a porch in his signature Panama hat. I was struck by how warmly he was greeted. One by one, everyone at that gathering stepped up to pay their respects. I believe this was around the time that he was Sonoma County Poet Laureate. But the homage that was being paid to him that day was more of that befitting a godfather. After that I began referring to him as the godfather of Sonoma County poetry. David was always graciously tolerant of my corny humor which of course was no match for his trenchant wit. The Thursday before his passing I visited with him. He seemed very perky and alert. We discussed famous last words. We speculated as to what Orpheus’ last words might have been. I remembered reading that Rabelais had said “I am setting off to seek a vast perhaps.” We had a good laugh about that one.
I’m coming to this late, having been out of town the previous week. I’m deeply sad to hear the news.
I met David twice: the first time was, I believe, 2002. I called him up when I was in San Francisco and asked if I could drive up to Sebastopol to visit him. We had wrangled here and there on the Poetics list back in the late 90s and also had some friendly correspondence later, so that was the background. But anyway, David seemed pleasantly surprised and he said Sure, drive on up, so I drove up there, and Cecilia and David came into the coffee shop, and then Cecilia left, and David and I went to have a couple or three beers at one of the local pubs. He was walking with a cane at this point, so I recall it was a slow walk, and he made funny, self-deprecating jokes about his condition. I can’t remember very well what we talked about at the bar, but it was a warm and fun meeting, and I was deeply impressed by David. He had a very sharp wit, but also a real kindness and gentleness about him.
The next time I was with him was in Cambridge, England, in 2004, where both of us were on the program at the CCCP. There were poets there from around the world, including Joan Retallack and the Austrian poet Josef Czernin and Stephen Rodefer, with whom I almost got into a silly fight, but David was sort of the featured poet, and so he and Cecilia were put up in the most special accommodations: Samuel Pepys’s old rooms at King’s College (I think it was King’s, I may have that wrong). Anyway, after one of the events, Cecilia and David kindly invited me back to their rooms for a drink, and I remember Cecilia and I took turns pushing David’s wheelchair, it was quite a longs ways from Trinity to where they were staying. I was struck by Cecilia’s presence and person, how kind and smart she was and how attentive to David, though this attentiveness was perfectly natural, without apparent effort. They joked and laughed a lot back and forth. It was pretty obvious they were very much in love. It was later that evening that David gave the featured reading of the conference, one of the most amazing readings I’ve ever heard.
I published a little book of poetic reminiscences a few years back called I Once Met. Below is the one about being with David and Cecilia that afternoon. It has a bit of a funny ending. But David, along with being one of the great poets of our time, had one of the greatest senses of humor of any poet I’ve met.
I once met David Bromige. This was in England, a couple years after we’d spent an afternoon together, drinking in Sebastopol. Now I sat with him in Samuel Pepys’s rooms at Cambridge. He was the guest of honor at the 2004 CCCP. There were antiques all around us and portraits on the walls of men from the 18th century. We talked pleasantries, while the leaded glass refracted a hard ray of light into his thin, pale head. The river flowed under the rooms; the punts with their straw-hatted boys slid on the river under the rooms. There were purple and yellow flowers along the banks of the river and small yellow birds, too. Isn’t the river sliding under the rooms lovely, said Cecilia, his wife, handing me a glass of wine, with all the flowers and the birds? Yes, I said, it certainly is, and I felt as if history were moving like a river beneath me, or through me… Would you please push me to the loo, my love, said David, beside the clock, in his chariot chair. Because I have to take the kind of piss that would scare the shit out of a Saskatchewan moose.
I am very sad tonight learning of David’s passing. David was one of my first poetry friends from the Poetics List when I was a true novice to internet exchange (I got my first dial up connection just to join the list). In fact I made the major faux pas of asking my new friend for a picture, a request he tastefully ignored (only months later did I realize the connotation of my request!). We had a lively debate on poetics and feminism — he was one of the few really interested in addressing the masculinist culture on the list. At one point I recall we had a really good fight about heterosexual marriage. By way of our exchange and through the friendship we developed we all met for his wonderful Left Hand reading–which Patrick mentions. Patrick took some beautiful photos of the event. I’ll dig around for my copies of those photos and send them. David remains very important to me as a poet and a great example of how to sustain a life of poetry. Warmest thoughts to you and all.
I have been thinking so often of you and Maggie and Chris over this last 48 hours–time which seems to have stretched because of staying up all night Wednesday after learning of David’s death, reading his poems and his rollicking “My memoir” on the web site that Chris so perfectly designed for D. It helped me by filling me with his lovable willingness to tell the truth and tell it outrageously with great spirit and force. I do think that David’s droll humor (which included a fairly clear and somewhat sarcastic reading of popular history) helped to keep a lot of people true to themselves. It is wonderful to have these pictures of him. too.
One of my favorite mental shots of David, though, is in his Sebastopol gardens…the earlier house with all the Gravenstein apple orchards scattered up and around the hills….and then, some five years ago, the casual tender rumpled flower beds in your back yard, framing the serious but nutty maze he’d constructed right in the middle of it all. He wanted me to walk through it and feel its semi-collapse of tendrils and wrong directions…somewhere between a threat and an instruction. He was right, that it would change me.
Arthur and I are both sending such love to you all and wishing we were there with you. We will be, soon.
I just read Cecelia’s remembrance of her life with David, and was touched by it. A former long-time Sebastopol resident, I moved to LA in November, 2008.
I used to belong to Coaches Corner, the gym in Sebastopol, and was usually there two or three times a week. It was there I met David. He was a regular, too, coming in with his pretty wife, whose name I did not know.
David and I chatted several times about writing, he a poet, I a writer of nonfiction and fiction, and I knew he was the former poet laureate of Sonoma County.
But we had something else in common: we were both stroke survivors. His stroke and other health complications had left him in worse shape than me, and I really admired his persistence and tenacity with his exercise routine and his rehabilitation.
We mapped this territory on our return from these adventures, marked where we had passed through woods which became Mirkwood, landmarked trees that looked like Ents, drew in creeks which became the beautiful Anduin or the Entwash. Dad was as creative and excited by incorporating such fancies into our experience of external reality as I was.
Krishna & I are so very sorry. I met David 41 years ago (he gave a reading at the Albany Public Library with Harvey Bialy which I attended) and he was a wonderful & generous friend the entire time. I dearly loved the man & learned more from him than I ever could hope to pay back,
Originally posted as a comment on June 3, 2009 around noon. Resubmitted by editor because of housekeeping matters.
A portion of Cecelia’s post on the home page reads:
In utter frustration one afternoon, I threw a pineapple sitting on our counter at David’s head. I missed. The pineapple lay on the floor, intact. David immediately ran and got the camera and took a picture of the pineapple to save as “evidence”.
Dear Cecelia, Dear Margaret, Dear Christopher –
BIG TEARS … Had so hoped to see David at least one more time, and am still hoping to see you-all, as they say, again and or in Chris’s case) for the first time. He was and is a singularly intelligent, emotionally sophisticated, and wonderfully witty poet. And a lovely human being to be around and to spend some time with. As our mutual friend Ted Berrigan might have put it, “Hope he’s tickling the ivories to accompany KoKo Taylor” … I loved him, as I know you did, and all the many folks who have sent their condolences and memories.
Love and big tears,
I was so sad to hear this news and I send my deepest condolences to his family. David and I seemed to be often planning or promising to spend more extended time together, and it’s painful to know that can’t happen now. But even the little time I got with him meant a great deal to me; he has never been far from my own thinking about how to live a life in relation to poetry. Really there are only a few useful and enduring pieces of advice I’ve gotten from other poets about life in this artform, and I suspect it was David who gave me the majority of them. He had an unparalleled ability to quickly find your own internal contradictions (in aesthetics or in anything else), and he helped me see my own in a way that was both warm-hearted in a way I needed, and also steadfast and uncompromising in a way I needed. A tremendous listener, a great storyteller (especially about poets & poetry), and just wickedly funny–that’s how I’ll remember him.
He was a towering presence on the poetry stage, not only for his many collections but for his generosity, his wide-ranging intellectual interests, his acerbic wit. I note from my dictionary that ‘acerbic’ may be interpreted as ’sour’, and ‘bitter tasting’, but David saw satire as an able weapon in the dissection of hypocrisy, and he wielded it well.
This from ‘famous reporter 17′ (Jun 98):
NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, DAVID BROMIGE
What price political romanticism?
The art of politics is often seen as a pragmatic, even cynical, exercise in compromise. But not always; as former Polish dissident Adam Michnik reveals (‘Quadrant’, Jan/Feb 98]:
“… I can announce with pleasure that for the first time in three hundred years, and perhaps for ever, Poland has not one conflict with any of its neighbours…. I am convinced that the balance of development in Poland over the last eight years is unequivocally positive. For people like me, who ten years ago were still being arrested by communist police, this is a true miracle. And so, once again it has turned out that in our region the people who understood the situation correctly were not political realists but political romantics – those who understood that in Poland whoever doesn’t beleive in miracles should not be involved in political activity.”
What is the common view of the political process? Is it one of bargains and deals and machinations? Or can a genuine sense of political romanticism survive? Natasha Stott Despoja (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats, and the youngest woman ever elected to the Australian Parliament), and David Bromige (Canadian poet now resident in California, and the author of thirty books), offer some thoughts:
Natasha Stott Despoja
It is said politics is the art of the possible, yet twenty years ago, it seemed impossible for there to be a viable third party in politics, a party that stood for environmental sanity, economic responsibility, equality, industrial democracy, reconciliation, social justice, anti-uranium, free education and a strong public sector. A party that stood for a new type of politics where petty insults, backroom deals and powerful vested interests do not dominate.
It is easy to predict the future, the hard part is making it come true, but the Australian Democrats are no fairy story.
What price political romanticism? It is a bargain. All it will cost us is our doubt, distrust, fear, greed and cynicism. A bargain.
POLITICAL ROMANTICISM, 1
1. Dying for truth and justice on the barricades. Been done. And now they have better weaponry. Avoid if at all possible.
POLITICAL ROMANTICISM, 2
Deliberately falling in love with the Chair (M or F) of your Department in the hope of securing unfair advancement. Often been done. Recommended, although “it would be wrong”. Caveat: it may not be reciprocated. Suggest all overtures be explicable as something else entirely should one’s suit fail to impress.
POLITICAL ROMANTICISM, 3
Teaching the works of the Lake Poets in such wise as to foster revolutionary fervor among the young. “A slumber did my spirit seal”: Wake up! Caveat: a new President will be brought in to your college with secret instructions to get people like you (the public instructions: “Pursue excellence.”)
POLITICAL ROMANTICISM, 4
v. Ecological, environmental, “green”. Belief in the living interconnectedness of all things and creatures, and that the planet must be defended against giant corporations. Frequent references to “my acid trip,” as in “It was on my fourth acid trip that I realized the interconnectedness of all things and creatures, when I wept for my lost soccer boots”. And again, “If I hadn’t dropped acid, I might not be here in this small boat about to be run down by this Russian whaler”. The editors of this encyclopedia encourage type 4 Political Romanticism and therefore have nothing cynical to say about it. Something must be left for the next generation.’
It’s been many many years! The photo of you and Susan made me realize just how long it’s been.
I enjoyed reading your memories and well remember you and Nathan and Markus and Dylan all running in and out of the Pharaoh’s Lane house and Sterling’s place as well. I remember evenings when he would read to you at bedtime and I would hear his voice from the other room rising and falling and jumping from character to character, giving them each a distinctive voice. I remember the worm farm and driving up from Valley Ford into the fog on English Hill. Do you remember the sign David posted at the head of the driveway on First St? “Trespassers WIll Be Exculpated.”
And I remember a party on First St. during a raging storm. The house was full, wine was flowing, smoke was drifting, when suddenly the front door blew in off it’s hinges and crashed onto the living room floor. It would have been like David to merely cock an eyebrow from his chair in the kitchen and continue on but instead he walked into the living room, took a look at the the supine door and the gaping black hole, rain blowing in, and without a word or a pause, simply turned and left the room.
It took him many years to decide to drive a car but his good company made it easy to find a ride with friends- though he unnerved me more than once. I would be driving him along on the winding Sonoma County back roads, bantering, in deep conversation, or listening to him hold forth when suddenly in mid-sentence he would let out a deafening Bromige scream as I came into a corner too fast for his liking, causing me to nearly run off the road anyway. The adrenaline rush would quickly settle back into a relaxed calm and he would pick up exactly where he had left off. For some reason he never stopped riding with me.
David had a very positive impact on his world. I saw it continually through the years, with both his friends and his students. He was a unique, gentle, complicated, and self-reflective person, aware of his strengths, his weakness, and his faults. His honesty was his greatest strength. I will miss him but be ever grateful that I was able to share some time with him in this life.
Here is a poem I wrote thinking about David (or Professor Bromige I used to say, as Cecelia reminded me) on thursday. I send a great deal of love to all the family and friends who are finding comfort and celebration in this collection of thoughts and memories.
-Gelsey (Pupil Bell)
in the distinct
of a question
& a joke
a sound like sun bleached
tongue red petals
& the yellow ash grasses
of california hills
margaret & i
trambolined the furniture
i only slowly understood
ethel merman doris day liza minelli
give give give force & form & fosse arms
whose words i have lost
but whose contour echoes
like the memory of gold
of a line of sun
I think I first met David in 1982 when he was a respondent at my residency at 80 Langton Street San Francisco. He drove me all over SF and north into Sebastopol and showed me his garden, fed me fresh sweet corn from his own crop and piled me up with books. We talked about an early home of his in Ilford (Essex, UK). When he came to London we spent a late evening in Brixton. I walked him down the hill to the Underground. It made him very nervous, It as coming up midnight and the street was very lively active. The Roxy had just turned out and a new crowd were en route. There were queues for the Fridge as we came into the High Street and the atmosphere was electric. He grabbed my arm. I always had a great time when I met David. He made me feel warm and light and always gave me strength for the next days.
I send my love and uplifting wishes to you Cecelia, it’s been so long since we saw each other. Love also to your family.
So sad to hear of David’s passing. God what a voice and those eyes – always twinkling and thoughtful. i knew David in sparse visits over 4 decades. My fondest was at his place up on the hill in Sonoma in the late seventies. I needed mentoring right then and he took on the role without my really noticing at the time. But over the years I’ve realized that many of the keen insights I’ve had were rooted in truths he shared with me back then. He reveled in merriment and keen intellectual discovery’s, both at the same time. He showed me how to manufacture happiness and to pass that to others.
See you later David! love Ian
Just got the news this afternoon. Glad I called yesterday, in time to speak to exchange a few words with David.
David was one of the greatest influences on my life, and the funniest, gentlest, wittiest of them all. When he came to visit me in Waterville, Maine in 1974 or ’75, his first words to me were, in a Yiddish accent, “So vot am I doin’ in Vaudeville?” David had the fastest mind in the West; my girlfriend Kathy always says listening to conversations between David and me would make her head spin. David was the heart and soul of the Rhymers Club at Berkeley in ’65,’66,’67. He was the link between Black Mountain and Language Poetry. He was the one who introduced Paul and Barry and me to Robert Duncan, and thru Duncan to the living tradition of American poetry. He was old enough to be our teacher, but he was our dearest, most beloved friend. And you, Cecelia, were his Angel. My deep condolences to you and to Chris and Margaret.
What I remember most about David was his great personal warmth. Unexpected, because it was accompanied by a dangerous razor wit. 50 years ago, when I was a young aspirant poet, he and the crowd of people who I thought at the time were such mature sophisticates, welcomed me, a callow bumpkin, to their beer-drinking meetings in the fake Tudor atmosphere of the Georgia Hotel beer parlour in Vancouver. I learned from David and his friends as much as I ever learned from most of my professors. Whenever David came back to Vancouver throughout the years, I’ve tried to go and see him, and I was always glad I did. I’m sorry I will never be able to see him again, and now I wish I had the chance to talk to him one more time. There are at least three poems of David’s that I remember as signal poems in my own life. And now this quotation from his own recent work seem to speak to me again:
Young together, callow
I admire the studied
Face balanced on the tilted
Stem, cool swan
Hairdo of 1961,
To hide the greenhorn
Whose I.Q. knew her ignorance,
Older, you told us,
‘Good looks are sent
To use until we have
Something to say.’
Formidable. & today,
Silenced, most eloquent.
My deepest condolences to Cecilia, to Christopher and all the other family members.
I met David at Sonoma State in the early ’80s, became his friend and saw him regularly at one literary event or another for more than 25 years. His bemused take on life and dry, mordant wit stand out to me. I shall never forget Cecilia helping David from his wheelchair so he could stand and read a poem at the last reading he attended in April; it was a moving, poignant, indelible moment. We are all very fortunate to have known him.
David was like family, and therefore there was a lot I didn’t know about him. He read Horatio Hornblower to my two sons Markus and Dylan, and to his son Chris, and to Nathan, a fourth in this pack of young pups. Where were you this afternoon? We were at Chris’ house. David read to us. I think he read the entire series to them – in my multilayered absence as single parent. And of course they carried a certain amount of intelligence with them when they walked the mile back up the hill. David could suffer sugar drops and have tantrums, and so I knew forty years ago that David was not perfect. But they forgave him over and over, and he loved them over and over, as did Sherril. Book after book he loved them and made them laugh and fear, as he spun the yarn. Life was crazy on Burnside Road, in Sebastopol, in the Sixties. The Seventies. But David, I know, was a keel that steadied. I suspect they heard him reading long after he had stopped and they had gone off and become men. Maybe they will describe what it was like. David had a quick wit; I liked to find fault with people. We were a good match. I kept my distance, and loved him like a cousin, without condition, because he loved my sons and Chris and Nathan. When there were birthday parties and weddings, my boys went to them; I did not. I was absent, outside the circle of writers and poets, carried by other currents. Years passed, I matured. I heard him read. At fifty, or was it sixty, I was grown up enough to marvel at his bard’s humor. He retired; I retired. We bumped into each other. I began living in Mexico; he suffered from diabetes, and wrote, and gave readings. We sat in front of Whole Foods. We sat here and there – and talked and made endless silly puns and observations, over the last ten years. And laughed. And laughed. I think he was closer to my sons than I was. My tantrums had been different. When you are in your Seventies, you can say you love another man, and feel it. I never knew who he really was. We weren’t buddies, confidants, gossips. But he was family. Gentle, funny, loyal – much more loyal than me. Then came the strokes, life taking him down. A little dopey on the surface, dazed by this goddamned way things want to end. I became more absent, if that was possible. I sat with him, the last time, while Cecelia shopped at Whole Foods. I let the balls drop I had in the air. I went home with them, sat in the front yard, with wine: Margaret, David, Cecelia and me. It was hard to tell how present he was. Cecelia was exhausted, Margaret distracted, David peaceful, with a little smile on his lips, eyes downcast. A neighbor walked by and said hi over the hedge. A cat passed on our side of the hedge, behind me. That’s Fern, someone said. Our cat. The air moved around us, through the birches. We sipped wine. We talked about things and nothing. Out of nowhere, David said, “I should give suck to Fernnipple.” It was a remarkable moment. I took out my little Mexican calendar book. I took out my ballpoint. I wrote it down. In moments of stress – what moments are not moments of stress – we take special note of words that appear before us. Not so here. Not really. Just a sign I wanted to record. Of the poet’s love of a phrase, wit, love. Above all else: unshakable love.
While just last month I’d solicited something new from David to publish in Clive Matson’s Poetry Newsletter, Scribbler. Then too, Ann Erickson and I were ironing out kinks in our schedule to visit him at home, David had to his own plans. As ever.
I was uniquely blessed to know David M. Bromige as my professor at Sonoma State University, my mentor as Director of the Russian River Writers Guild, as confidante during one of the most difficult times of my life. He knew how to make light of the most serious and scary circumstances, which was a strong-hold in the whirlydirly world of art and poetry. He believed in the nobility of the pen as a fortress and sword. He taught by example more than by lecture that whatever road leads to the fully expressed human and vitally engaged of life’s fascades is the road to follow. His dear wife, Cecelia, was equally generous of her time, heart and spirit. I’m deeply saddened for her loss and yet ever so determined to let his influence matter more than ever. With LoveyDoves and Gratitude, D. Jayne McPherson
David Bromige has an office two doors from mine on the third floor of Nichols Hall at Sonoma State University.
He is not one to make an issue of whom he is and so I knew little about him at the start, other than he taught in the Department of English. I was in Communication Studies.
As time passed, we came to exchange greetings and comments in the hallway, mostly of a political nature. It appeared that we shared a rather critical perspective of the political scene.
On occasion I would pass along results of a national media research project I conduct, titled Project Censored, which explores the failure of the major news media to fully inform the public of what is happening in society.
I knew David liked the academic muckraking activity I was involved in but I didn’t realize how much until one day he gave me a copy of P-E-A-C-E.
Reading his work, I discovered several things – one, David was a poet; two, he had a social conscience; and three, he was telling people about the same kinds of political and social injustices that I was berating the news media for not covering.
In presenting me with P-E-A-C-E, he thanked me “for the loan of a couple of facts …”. I was delighted to find that he had incorporated some data from my research in his poetry. I also was impressed with the skill with which he wove political commentary into his poetic work.
In 1982, David asked me for a complete copy of all the stories nominated for “best censored” of the previous year. He said he’d like to try something with them.
What he tried was to take a direct approach to converting traditional, and often-time dreary, news-style writing into eye-and-ear-appealing news-poetry without being guilty of practicing polemic political poetry.
The result was 16 news-poems drawn directly from the nominated stories. His introduction to the poems revealed his interest in muckraking as well as his desire to write and inform:
“These poems are made almost verbatim from Carl Jensen’s Project Censored for 1981, and thanks to him for all his hard work in the great cause of muckraking, an activity I have always found poetic, for poetry, too, means to excite us about something we are trying to forget, for example, transparent form.”
Titled, “What Are The Stories We Don’t Know About?”, the collection was an ingenious restructuring of typical news terminology into a poetic form. For me, it also was a discovery of how exciting poetry can be. Admittedly, previously I was of the “I may not know poetry but I know what rhymes” school.
I asked David what he planned to do with the series and he explained that there really was no market for this kind of poetic muckraking.
Nonetheless, with his permission, I wrote a letter to Mark Dowie, then editor of MOTHER JONES, a leading investigative news magazine. I urged Mark to publish the poems which I described as “relevant, incisive, written-for-the-Mother-Jones-reader poetry.
I was surprised, although David was not, when the submission produced a rejection slip explaining that poetry was not MOTHER JONES’ style.
Thus, this experiment with censored news poetry fulfilled its own thesis and David’s news-poems received no coverage beyond a small circle of his colleagues.
A political conscience and substance, leavened with poetic genius, can overcome form and style.
At times, we experience the unfortunate pleasure of a perfect memory. Within that perfect memory, one doesn’t age or atrophy. I have a small collection of those memories. I can spread them like a poker hand.
One each card is the face of a friend whose presence in my life was flawless. These fragile portraits display the beauty that thoughtful, insightful and loving beings etch on a passing hour.
As millions of other moments passed, periodically I would let this card slip from my sleeve and promise to call or visit. The whirlpool of all other moments churned on. The immortal image of David quietly shuffled.
So, today as I sit on the Maine coast, I am invited to this passing from a dear friend in Berlin with whom I have witnessed age and atrophy. I know the sound of his voice as it weakens and cracks. I can hear the clear notes remaining within the others that has evolved into my wife’s voice. Last week, in the midst of another week on the road, I heard the laughter of a teenager escape my youngest daughter’s lips. For a moment, I mourned the laughter of the little girl i heard as recently as last month.
I have the unfortunate pleasure of hearing the full throated laugh of a young David Bromige. Until I witnessed the photos on this site, the fragile portrait of David I kept in my deck of favorites was a pleasant and unfortunate pleasure as well. I’ll continue to cherish these unfortunate pleasures. As if there was a choice.
I think I first met David in 1982 when he was a respondent at my residency at 80 Langton Street San Francisco. He drove me all over SF and north into Sebastopol and showed me his garden, fed me fresh sweet corn from his own crop and piled me up with books. We talked about an early home of his in Ilford (Essex, UK). When he came to London we spent a late evening in Brixton. I walked him down the hill to the Underground. It made him very nervous, It was coming up midnight and the street was very lively active. The Roxy had just turned out and a new crowd were en route. There were queues for the Fridge as we came into the High Street and the atmosphere was electric. He grabbed my arm. I always had a great time when I met David. He made me feel warm and light and always gave me strength for the next days.
I send my love and uplifting wishes to you Cecelia, it’s been so long since we saw each other. Love also to your family.
We have lost a fine poet and friend. Although I never had David as an instructor, I know that he inspired many excellent writers who studied under him at SSU. I met David when I was coordinating the Russian River Writers’ Guild in the ’70s and ’80s. He always drew a crowd! I will remember David for his warmth, wit, and words. Shalom.
David was the most charming of men! I remember in the early 90s his coming to read to my class at Stanford and he was so mordantly funny, the kids didn’t quite know how to react. But they were mesmerized. I was always very fond of David and sorry that when I left the Bay Area in 2001, I saw much less of this uniquely gifted poet. All my thoughts are with his family!
Dear David: James Garrahan and I took pink carnations and white chrysanthemums and tossed them into the SSU pond in your honor on Thursday evening. We sang your praises as the blossoms floated in the eddies. A flock of Canadian geese flew in out of the dusk and landed on the silvery water. And yes, we said, yes!
For you, David – poet, professor, mentor, neighbor and friend.
“To have heard the farfalla gasping as to a bridge across worlds. ” EP
I am deeply saddened to learn of David’s death. Twenty-five years ago when I arrived in California and I was teaching at Sonoma State, David was the first person assigned to evaluate my teaching ability. He was kind, gave excellent suggestion, a positive evaluation, and spread his joy of literature. He was also the first person to invite me into the literary world in Sonoma County. Truly, he was and always will be my first California mentor. He was one of the most honest and humble, yet unique individuals I have ever met. Anyone who knew David will surely miss this talented and exemplary man. Knowing David was a gift.
I am deeply saddened to learn of David’s death. Twenty-five years ago when I arrived in California and I was teaching at Sonoma State, David was the first person assigned to evaluate my teaching ability. He was kind, gave excellent suggestion, a positive evaluation, and spread his joy of literature. He was also the first person to invite me into the literary world in Sonoma County. Truly, he was and always will be my first California mentor. He was one of the most honest and humble, yet unique individuals I have ever met. Anyone who knew David will surely miss this talented and exemplary man. Knowing David was a gift.
I’m so sorry to hear of David’s passing. He was my creative writing advisor during my time at SSU in the late 70′s. I was in awe of him, but he was never intimidating, always warm and at ease, his feedback wry and encouraging, his office welcoming.
I’ll never forget his response to a short story of mine, written from first-person perspective. “Did that really happen to you?” he asked with those EYEBROWS up while his jaw dropped. It hadn’t of course, so I took it as high praise indeed.
How fortunate writers are that while they pass, the breath of their words still moves through us.
Thank you David.
Cecelia, It’s been a very long time but I have often wondered what happened in your life. I left California a long time ago but remember our Sonoma State days (and you) fondly. It was wonderful that you had such a long marriage to David, you truly seemed like soul mates. This is a great loss, more for you than anyone else, but I hope you find a way to muddle through this grief period and come out to the light again where you think of him with happy memories. If you’re of such a mind, I love to hear from you. I can be reached at marycoleen at comcast dot net.
i never met you but i remember meeting david at the post office in cotati the day after your child was born, he was so excited. i also remember him talking about how he took the baby for a week or weekend to give you some time to yourself and how he couldn’t believe you cleaned the attic with that time. i offer you my deepest condolences. david would light up whenever he spoke of you.
I asked David not long ago if he could live his life over what we he’d want to be.
He told me it would be wonderful to be a professor at a university , who was a published poet, traveling the country giving readings, living in a small town like Sebastapol with his family, having many literary friends, and spending long days in the garden basking in the sun while writing.
David loved his life, and so did all of us who knew him.
What he planted in each of us will continue to live on.
David was my professor in creative writing at Sonoma State. My friend, poet Amy Trussell, just ended an e-mail to me saying I miss Bromige. I googled him, fearing the worst and when I read the news I was surprised that I just burst into tears. This was almost 30 years ago when I was just starting to take poetry seriously and I had no idea how much he meant to me. I am filled with sadness.
My dear friend David and I met sometime in the very early ’70′s. I recall doing a reading with him in Monte Rio at the community center, now movie theater.
David enouraged me to go back to college and is directly responsibe for the degrees I now hold. He defended my poetry – to me – and always encouraged my work with apt and friendly criticism.
In recent years I did not want to intrude. I do regret that today.
I will miss his presence on the planet.
Such a attentive, wise, and lovely friend and man and spectacular, incisive, quicksilver, memorable poet. Each of us, I suspect, has a few particular people whose personal and poetic voices, phrases from the work and from conversation, we carry around in our heads, ears, and bodies. David was one of those for me. “We don’t have to behave the way we were raised” (we often rehashed our English childhoods). “It says here”: classic sly Bromige reflexiveness and reflectiveness. Many happy memories: reading one of his dialogue poems together at a reading in Louisville; his pleasure at the pilgrimage he, then-12-or-13-year-old Margaret and my wife Lisa took to visit Seattle Slew (M., David had written before the trip, was “pegging and bleeding” to visit Kentucky horse country–could she come with him, he asked?); our late-night duet of “Leaning on a Lamppost” at some Orono conference, then heading to the men’s room at the same time, peeing as the sun came up and realizing that we’d stayed up rather later than planned . . . David was tremendously generous with his work, with conversation about his work, and in bringing people together. Among other things, he introduced me to a whole range of British poetry and performance that was utterly off my radar at the time (“call x, call y, here’s their numbers, go to Writers Forum”). We were out of touch the last couple of years except for the occasional e-mail, but Lisa and I will miss him greatly. “Assembling Alternatives” indeed: that’s what David, and knowing him, was all about.
Krishna & Ron are so very sorry. Ron met me 41 years ago (I gave a reading at the Albany Public Library with Harvey Bialy which Ron attended) and I was a wonderful & generous friend the entire time. David, ‘sturdy’ – like a rock or a tree…. Stephen heard me read in the city in the mid ’80s, wrote “Cracking the Code” for The Difficulties issue devoted to my work. Charles Bernstein loved me and my work and my death fills him with sorrow. William Knight is very sorry to hear of my passing. He met me on several of my visits to Vancouver to see Chris and to do readings. He remembers the quicksilver, the knife edge, the words that softly split his head open. And laughing with me later. Steve Tills just learned of this a minute ago—has been busy moving to a new home. Aside from his own father, I was pretty much the dearest and most generous man Steve will ever know. He will miss me like the dickens. I taught them all how to be alive and how to squeeze everything meaningful and fun and loving and real out of every moment we live. Gosh, he loves me. For Charles Bernstein, I was a prince of poetry and a wonderful friend and compatriot. “A Great Companion,” as Robin Blaser said. Curtis Faville didn’t know me but his wife took her first English course at Berkeley from me when I was still a TA in the Department there, pursuing my graduate degree. I was a juvenile diabetic, but lived to be 75. This alone is a feat almost beyond belief. He is sorry he never had the occasion to know me. George Bowering will always remember the poem I wrote in the cafeteria at UBC: “Borrowing from Bowering/ is a neat/ feat.” He just turned his tired old neck to the left and saw his shelf of Bromide books, and said thank goodness, and in his head I scoffed at the object odf that verb. D.A. Powell said I was his first teacher. What one of us lacked, the other forgave. Tom Raworth said I will be missed. It’s a clear dawn there on the South Coast of England: sunlight on cream-painted Regency houses he looks past to arrive at the sea. And the light reminds him of the last time he spent with me, some years ago, when I drove him from Santa Rosa over to Camp Meeker where Val, the children and he had lived back in the seventies. He remembers the echo of our tread on the boardwalk of Occidental Fragments of memory. Ed Coletti says it rained untimely this morning early on in June when I disappeared.
Dear Cecelia and family,
I just learned the news of David’s passing. I am more sorry than I can say. David was an ingenious poet, an inspirational teacher, and a warm, witty, tender man.
We came to know each other in 1993 on a long flight to and from New York, where both of us were scheduled to read at different gigs. Suspended over the wide Atlantic, he welcomed me into his world of poetry, a place of whimsy and perplexity. And for 16 years, I have considered him one of the most influential and generous mentors I have known. He was a good friend to me and to the entire Sonoma County literary community.
I will miss his New Year’s poems, his trickster soul, and ever playful, brilliant mind.
I am so sorry. Although I was never David’s student, he treated me as an honorary one. I have used some of his brilliant and generously shared “techniques” as models in some of my own work, and as models for my students. He was generous and kind to me, and I will miss his playful spirit. Thinking of you and Margaret and family.
I was a student of David’s way back when (early 70s at Sonoma State) but the last time I saw him was nearly 30 years ago. What I remember most about him was his generosity. As an undergrad at SSC, I went around trying to convince someone to teach a class on Pound. David did it, and he did it well. I also remember expressing my interest to him in exploring Duncan’s “Passages”, and his response was to invite me to his home in Sebastopol to spend a day doing just that.
David was a great friend. He will be missed and remembered fondly by the generations of writers whom he taught, mentored, encouraged, and challenged with his wit, his curiosity, and his attentiveness to the possibilities of each moment. He will always remain in my heart.
The Plumber’s Dream (For David)
How the young Englishman
had come to lie
in this particular bed
was a wonder to him exceeded only
by the pleasure he took
What troubles I put myself in
only to dig my way out in the end.
Someday I shall become an expert
in Precambrian soils
for strata is a word
that I love.
The landscape cannot come to words
but what the mind may play upon it
must be attended to
as the dream takes attention
not to disturb
the young Englishman
I am very sorry to hear of David’s passing. Although I only met him a few times, I have fond memories of those occasions, which occurred over many years, both in California and in Vancouver. In particular, I remember having a conversation with David when I was a teenager and feeling both respected and challenged. I know more of David through the stories Chris and I have shared over the years, and I know David will be greatly missed by so many.
It was an honour to have known your father, Chris, and I thank you for sharing the pleasure of his company with me on those few occasions when he came up to Vancouver in the ’80s and ’90s and we sang songs, played guitar, read his and others’ poetry, enjoyed his stories and his sharp wit… my love to you and sympathy to your family. Looking forward to seeing you when you’re back.
I think with so much pleasure of David — and of you, Cecilia — through these many years. And send love to Chris and Margaret.
I remember when Cecilia and David got together I thought “what beautiful voices” both full of pitch and modulation in one’s ear. Beautiful people too.
Anyone who knew David knew what an exceptional person he was. That he had a cauldron for a heart for one thing.
Outside, after a wet Spring, incipient Summer lies lush under a gray sky and misty rain. There must be wind tho I can’t hear it from here; the tops of trees are waving. How great that David lived and wrote; how lucky for us who knew him; for those who will come to know him in his work.
I’m so sad to hear of David’s passing. My condolences to his family. My fondest memory of him was at my reading at the Robin Blaser conference in Vancouver. I was looking for a second voice for a couple of my poems, and David volunteered instantly. Not the best poems ever, but he sure made the work sound great. A real pro, a wonderful poet, and a true mensch. It was some years since I saw him last, and now I will miss him.
Assembling the Bromige Issue of The Difficulties was about the most fun I’ve ever had. David was an enlivening spirit. He brought sparkle to encounters. I’ll never forget riding with David and Margaret from Sebastopol to Bolinas. David and Margaret were singing Talking Heads songs virtually the whole way. He’ll be greatly missed. I’m grateful to have gotten to know him a little.
utter delight to have been able to spend time with him and an honor to have shared platforms with him . . . one of the very best of his generation. like Tom i remember his hilarious presentation on podium behavior and how poet’s use their hands and body when reading from a “podium” in New Hampshire. i subsequently read with him in London about 12 years ago and we really hit it off. he was a hugely generous spirit with a tremendous sense of play betrayed by the ready twinkle in his eye and the mental alacrity on his tongue.
today i am extremely saddened by this news but happy that his work will live on and gain an increasingly wide audience. great writing from a prescient poet xx cc
I was indeed on the left along the coast (depending on which way Tom was facing) but had probably gone to bed by the time he posted his comment.
The ms of David’s Collected Poems has still to be assembled, but rest assured Reality Street will be bringing this book out as soon as we can – the best memorial we can offer.
David was a dear, dear friend. Elaine and I last saw him in Cambridge about five years ago, where he gave a terrific reading from his wheelchair.
We will miss his vital intelligence, humour and heroism.
Love and sympathy,
Ken & Elaine Edwards
It’s a clear dawn here on the South Coast of England: sunlight on cream-painted Regency houses I look past to arrive at the sea. And the light reminds me of the last time I spent with David, some years ago, when he drove me from Santa Rosa over to Camp Meeker where Val, the children and I had lived back in the seventies. I remember the echo of our tread on the boardwalk of Occidental Fragments of memory. Another of David in New Hampshire, at the “Assembling Alternatives” Conference a decade ago.
Sadly odd to think that, some miles to my left along this same coastline, Ken Edwards is probably also awake; David’s “Collected Poems” manuscript near him.
David was my first teacher. I was prone to be both serious and outrageous at the same time. David, on the other hand, was prone to be both serious and outrageous at the same time. What one of us lacked, the other forgave. He liked me for a student, and I liked him for a teacher. Which was a good thing, because that’s pretty much the way it worked. What Ermengard?
David, even when I try my best to imitate you, I am but a cheap imitation. “Yes,” you’d say back to me at this point. “That’s the way it goes sometime.”
I wrote this for David in the early or mid-90s, after he had been to Tucson, playing bar-room blues piano in our house, and after I had been to visit him and he had showed me a lovely world.
How did you fit
such a large poem
into such a small space
or was it a
painting that time,
and did it fold paper
from the creased point
of if to is
if so, where is the desire?
in a piano playing
blues with a
that shiver holding against
crayons and litter and
the chickens and the eggs
are safe, petting plumes
and looms there to give
semblance to resemblance
far or not far from
I wrote this, using two poems by David. The second, fourth, sixth, eighth, etc. lines should be in italics.
If your child is holding you I can’t say that I ever satisfied him
in an intensity of feeling that you find’s He was insatiable
too difficult to bear Sometimes, I felt I had really disappointed,
you can abstract yourself by naming this in the sense I had failed him.
experience: Biological identity. At other times, I felt I had satisfied him
There is a use of category It’s a lot like sex, though I don’t mean it to be
that brings hopeless reassurance.
You think of big B Being, I wouldn’t have liked to make love to Robert Duncan
with all that term can bear to you. It didn’t go further for me.
You needn’t think it rimes with big B Boeing We were friends. Friends.
in that rare realm where you are big G Going. And now Duncan is Gone
And call the boy your son. And David is
This is a sonnet. gone, who said “sonnet” like “sun-”
I met Broms in 1957 and thought to myself,”Oh no, even here at university I have to put up with Englishmen.” But he was my editor at the UBC newspaper, my poetry critic when Tish started, a presence in the theatre during my ill-chosen path as an actor, and the person who showed me how to get a free beer at the Georgia beer parlour. So we corresponded when he went south and I went east, and for a while we had a falling out that may have been bogus, and then we became great friends, especially after he got interested in Robert Duncan et al, and then even more so when he became the et al. So we collaborated in the making of a shamefully unfamous novel, and life continued till now. I will always remember the poem he wrote in the cafeteria at UBC: “Borrowing from Bowering/ is a neat/ feat.”
I just turned my tired old neck to the left and saw my shelf of Bromide books,
and said thank goodness, and in my head he scoffed at the object odf that verb.
David was a juvenile diabetic, but lived to be 75. This alone is a feat almost beyond belief. The joy he projected should certainly be regarded as angelic, given the condition/regime under which he lived.
I didn’t know David, but my wife took her first English course at Berkeley from him when he was still a TA in the Department there, pursuing his graduate degree. Actually, he and Robin Magowan shared duties at that class. Ghosts from the past.
We once had a lively exchange over some poems I’d submitted to a small mag he was editing, we two arguing, if my memory serves, over my use of the word “illusive” — which he said was not a “word” or at least not a word he’d ever considered using the way I had. He liked part of a poem I’d written that went “And trees will fall/if sawed and sawed until/there is no sound in the sawing.”
I’m sorry I never had the occasion to know him. Regrets all the way.
I only just learned of David’s passing a few minutes ago on Fancebook. And on Walt Whitman’s birthday, at that. I am so sorry for your loss. David was instrumental in my becoming a poet. I remember well that fateful day, in 1979, auditioning for him on the phone why I wanted to take his poetry class, never expecting that I would be accepted, or that it would become my life’s work.
As he once quipped, I came into the program with a full head of steam and what I appreciate most about having been his student, is that he allowed me find my own voice and style, And I ran with it to become editor of Sonoma State Mandala (Zaum) and a coordinator of many poetry events at SSU and in the community: Ear to the Ground, Russian River Writers’ Guild, etc,. for 20 years.
I remember one time he called me into his office, I thought it was going to be bad news, I’d failed a class, but he reached into his filing cabinet and pulled out some beer and we went over my work. I loved being a TA for him as well, and learned far more from the process, that if I’d been just a student.
Last time I saw David was in Sebastopol. We bumped into each other on the street, popped into a wine bar and sipped a lovely large cabernet mid-afternoon. The circle completed—from student/professor to comfortable old friends. That day, tranquil, indelible as stone, will remain with me forever. May the road rise lightly at your back, David. May it rise like your words on the wind.
I loved being around David in those few years in the late Seventies when were near-neighbors in Sonoma County. He was a wonderfully generous man and genuinely warm to me and hospitable to all of us, Jeffrey Miller (whose teacher he’d been), Hunce Voelcker, and Pat Nolan, who gave me the sad news today. We often descended on him in a gang and drank all his liquor and he twinkled and regaled us with expansive stories and his signature wit. Last time I saw him was In Monte Rio in 2006 for the Jeffrey Miller reading/celebration/memorial, and he gave a spectacular reading, and later at Pat and Gail Nolan’s, he radiated kindness and good will and that sparkling wit was all there. I will miss him. My love to everyone lucky enough to have known him. Andrei
This is deeply saddening news. I loved him. Who else will ever make us laugh like that? David introduced himself to me decades ago, after a reading I gave with Anna Hartmann and others at Intersection in San Francisco. I was bowled over that he wanted us to come and read at Sonoma State, but he did, and of course he was an incredibly kind and gracious host. I doubt he ever knew what all of that meant to me. Really I survived on it through many years of exile. Later we played some mock-outrageous games on the Poetics list (with George Bowering and Maria Damon) and David’s merciless, acrobatic posts were always goading me on. I learned so much fencing with him. It was like reading him, only on the fly and in mid-air. In our last phone conversation he displayed the old wit, saying (when he learned my book would be called Dick of the Dead) “Oh, about a bunch of stiffs.” We talked awhile about our sport on Poetics and he said, “Those were fun days. Why did we give them up?” I feel the same way. He was a joy.
Only the other day I asked George Bowering if he knew how David was. Both of us had fallen out of touch with him, though he was often in my thoughts. His tremendous mirth and joie de vivre. His amazing spirit and generosity. Many long, animated emails, full of poetry talk and brilliant jokes.
I remember with great fondness and affection when you both came to Boulder for the Left Hand series that Rachel Levitsky and I ran — I think this was 1999. I told him once about reading A Cast of Tens in the bathtub while stoned. “That’s probably the best way to read it,” he said.
PS — I have a handful of photos from yr Boulder visit which I will scan and send on. And a priceless shot of David and George, three sheets to the wind, at Keith Tuma’s late night party in Orono.
I just read Charles’ words on Facebook regarding David’s passing this morning. I am stunned, shocked, and very sad. I send my deepest condolences and love to you and all in the family.
David touched so many lives. He gave so much of himself, sharing his talent, skill, experience, and inspiration with grace and humor. We will all dearly miss him more than any words can say.
I had written on my calendar just two days ago: “Call David B.” I should have called right then. I just didn’t realize the situation.
David and I became friends before I moved to Redding, and even after the move, I always felt connected and knew our friendship was unconditional; the “where” didn’t matter, except that we just could not visit as we had been able to.
I have collaborative poems we wrote together. I will find something wonderful to do with them. Here are a few beautiful lines of David’s from one of our pieces:
as though called to,
in our light I discovered
in the subtly melting snow.
I loved David and his work, and had a couple of my best experiences in this poetry-sharing life with him. I had always hoped we could become close again and spend time together again. I’m deeply saddened and my heart goes out to you.
Just learned of this a minute ago — have been busy moving to new home.
As you know, aside from my own father, David was pretty much the dearest and most generous man I will ever know. Oh, there was the infinitely wonderful and encouraging poetry and academic mentoring, of course, but there was much, much more, all of which far transcends literary stuff. If David had been anything else — a door-to-door vacumn cleaner salesman or a medical doctor or a gardener or a wheat farmer — it doesn’t matter, I still would have been treated ever so fortunately to some of the deepest and most genuine Kindness, Intelligence, Joy, and Human Spirit I could ever in the luckiest of all lifetimes ever know.
I am, of course, deeply saddened by this and I will miss him like the dickens, but do let me send you my most heartfelt condolences and Love. Jeepers, he was so ALIVE, Always, and in so many ways. Well, he taught us all how to be alive and how to squeeze everything meaningful and fun and loving and real out of every moment we live. Gosh, I love him, and you all, too. Yours always, Steve
I am very sorry to read of David’s passing. My condolences to you Cecilia, Chris, and Margaret. I met David on several of his visits to Vancouver to see Chris and to do readings. I remember the quicksilver, the knife edge, the words that softly split my head open. And laughing with him later. I hope to talk to you soon Chris, all my love, Will
David, ‘sturdy’ – like a rock or a tree…. I heard him read in the city in the mid ’80s, wrote “Cracking the Code” for The Difficulties issue devoted to his work (…hearing David Bromige’s “Indictable Suborners” for the first time is like finding yourself in the funhouse with unlimited access to all the rides….”), ‘interviewed’ him for SF State in January 1988. The tape is here on the table beside me, along with the presence of his being, ‘here’ —
first grey light in sky above shadowed
green tree, robin calling from branch
in foreground, sound of jet overhead
views of trees along road,
frontal view of trunk
framed white margin, side,
variant of plate tone
grey-white sky reflected in channel,
green slope of ridge across from it