Feature > Poetry
Susan Guma

Susan Guma

Susan Guma, as Emeritus Dean of Graduate Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, worked with Thomas Lux over a 20-year period. She first worked with him in his role as Director of Poetry in the MFA in Creative Writing Program. In addition, she worked closely with him as the college developed under his direction and leadership the Sarah Lawrence Seminar for Writers, which is now in its 24th year.

Thomas Lux

Like the many friends, students and colleagues of Tom Lux, I was greatly saddened by the news of his death. My friendship with Tom began at Sarah Lawrence College, where I was Dean of Graduate Studies and he was Director of Poetry in the MFA Program in Creative Writing; we worked together for over 20 years in a strong collaboration.

My first introduction to Tom came several years before we met, when I attended a service for his dear friend, poet Robert Winner, where Tom gave a moving eulogy. The favorite poem I have selected comes from those remarks he made that day; they gave me such an insight into the person I would come to know.

Working with Tom was pure joy, even though challenging — he had definite ideas about building a program, whether it was the MFA or the Summer Seminar for Writers. His primary concern was building a community of faculty and students who shared a love of poetry. His focus on teaching was a critical element, whether in support of students or faculty. As both the MFA and Summer Writers Program grew, so did the opportunities expand for enriching this community: a visiting writers series, craft talks, student and faculty readings, guest faculty teaching, creation of a journal, creating opportunities for students to teach, supporting the Joseph Campbell Poetry Contest, and of course his beloved baseball games. All of these were encouraged and supported through Tom's leadership and involvement.

Tom's energy and enthusiasm for the work and the people he encountered were his gifts to us all — the joy, compassion, and enduring friendship will remain with us as well as his brilliant poetry.

Elegy for Robert Winner (1930-1986)

I dreamed my friend got up and walked;
he was taller than me
and we were young, striding
down some stairs, two at a time, headlong,
on our way to sports or girls.
What did it mean — my psyche
freeing him, freeing me? My friend
is gone; no, no metaphors: dead, who broke
his neck in 1946, six months
before I was born, and then forty years

in a wheelchair. A medical
miracle — he's in the textbooks — to live that long
with a shattered spine,
and now he's dead, whom I loved.
He was a poet and administered
a cemetery — a profession, a business
like any other. He had an office there,
and now a grave.
Mostly we talked poetry, not business.
In my dream I wished we'd smashed his chair,

sent its bent wheels wobbling
over a cliff; or I wished we'd run
to where the boulder is — just beneath
the surface of the stream — on which
he broke his neck,
and dove in together, emerged,
dove again, and emerged. . .
I dreamed my friend got up and walked.
We were striding down some stairs
and he was tall, taller than me.

from The Drowned River, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990


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