Joanne Kyger died March 22, 2017.
She became increasingly respected and beloved in her later years, after a low keyed career as part of the pantheon of “Beat” poets, whose example and strivings toward humble humane existence affected the following two post war generations' sensibilities. She was considered by her former husband, now a seer of American letters, Gary Snyder, as an unique poetic talent. Her receptivity and awareness, akin to the delicacy of flowers, came through into language of simple and irreducible power.
She enthusiastically agreed by email to travel to Willits and give a poetry reading when I asked her in the summer of 2005. I had written her former husband Gary Snyder read here, that their friend Nanao Sakaki had passed through hitchhiking north in the 1970's, and that the San Francisco Beat poet Albert Saijo's niece lived here.
It was certain she would be warmly received as a member of the literary group from whose works the post-Vietnam War generation had derived their personal philosophies and directions. Jack Kerouac once planned at one time, if his first book 'The Town and the City' succeeded, to start an artist collec-tive outside of Ukiah. He had hitchhiked through the town in the early 1950's as had Snyder in 1952-3.
Jerri-Jo Idarius and I met Joanne and Don at the Willits City Park. He drove the white Ford Ranger un-der some trees for shade. Joanne waved tentatively as we approached and we all shook hands then. Jer-ri-Jo gave her a bouquet of flowers. It was a hot summer in downtown Willits. No one else was in the park.
That year, 2005, was the middle of a corrupt, avaricious, politically repressive, war-making time, which, coming on the heels of a traumatic never explained murder of thousands in New York and Washington D.C., had deeply unsettled the psyche of the national population. In a satirical poem about President Bush, Joanne wrote that thinking about him probably wasn't good for her health.
As happens in the best and worst of times, art of all sorts bubbled and abounded. The mystical drive of creativity does not cease. On the night of the Joanne Kyger reading, there was a flamenco performance a couple of blocks away. Attenders went to both venues. The participants of both events and their friends met at a celebratory party afterwards hosted at the Rohliceks on Penn Street.
Joanne and her husband Don Guravich stayed out in Third Gate at Barbara Willens's country house, then came into town and she rested at Marcia Pratt's home before the performance. She would be sev-enty three months later, November 19.
The day after her reading we went out to Reynolds Highway where there is a rock formation resem-bling a praying Madonna surrounded with wild bay laurels. She said that this was an appropriate visit because poets wear laurel garlands.
When we parted for them to return to Bolinas, she gave me a copy of her collected poems 'As Ever', her travel journal of the Far East 'Strange Big Moon', a later volume 'All This Every Day', and a fossilized piece of whale bone. I gave her a broom, hand-made in Willits, which, she said later, fit perfectly in their home.
Farewell Joanne Kyger, for whom humble presence was the higher vehicle that carried kindness, truth, and beauty. She will be remembered.