After graduating High School and spending 6 weeks in NYC at the pre-college program at Parsons, I knew I wanted to go to school in the city. My plan was to spend my freshman year at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and then transfer (as a Fashion Design Major) to Parsons, my sophomore year. And that's what I did. After a month in the program, I realized the Fashion Design life was not for me. I couldn't connect with any of the teachers. I couldn't find a common thread. I missed the big open spaces of MIAD and I missed my laid back mid-west friends. So one day (with deep concern of disappointing my friends and family...it took A LOT of work to get there!), I changed my major to Illustration, so I could transfer back to MIAD as a Drawing major.
This allowed me to take a Poetry class at The New School of Social Research. My teacher was William Packard. He would show up to class with his leather bound books of poetry, held tight with rubber bands. He wore a leather jacket and walked with a cane. His long finger nails would make a clicking sound as he unwrapped the rubber bands from his books. He would take out his comb and comb back his long, grey, greasy hair. Push his thick black glasses up his nose and begin reading.
Our big assignment of the semester was to write a biography of a poet. Naturally, I chose Kenneth Patchen, the poet my Uncle Fred turned me onto at a very young age. Uncle Fred gave me the phone number to call Miriam Patchen to interview her for the paper. She was in her 80's. When my professor learned I had chose to write about Patchen, he was beside himself. When he found out I would be talking with Miriam over the phone, he said to me "Tell her I'm doing well...".
You see, William Packard was a student at Stanford, in Palo Alto, in the 1950's. That's when Kenneth and Miriam moved into their home and Packard helped them move.
I did my biography, hand written (of course) and mailed the original copy to Miriam in Palo Alto. A few years later, I would take the train from Chicago to Los Angeles and my dad and Uncle Fred and I drove up the coast to spend 2 nights with Miriam in her home. I slept next to Miriam in her rock hard bed. Actually, I'm not sure I slept. I might have been a little star struck. I AM IN HER BED.
We spent 3 days together, the 4 of us, listening to Kenneth Patchen (on vinyl), chatting about life. My hand-written biography of Kenneth sitting on the coffee table. She asked me to move in with her, but at the time I was eager to move in with my boyfriend. Ha!!!!! Oh, how love can cloud our vision.
6 months later, Miriam passed away in her reading chair.
Back to NYC a few years prior, William Packard gave me a copy of his New York Quarterly, which he was the Editor of for over 30 years. The front cover, Kenneth Patchen. Packard and I wrote a few letters back and forth in the late 90's and I learned of his passing in 2002.
I'm not sure if I'm clearly expressing this, but there was a lot of magic happening there for this 19 year old girl from a small town in Illinois. I cherish these memories so much. The experience of Packard's classroom, the connection Uncle Fred gave me to The Patchen's. "Tell her I'm doing well..."
*picture top left going clockwise / that's me in my NYC dorm circa 1996!/ The New York Quarterly featuring Kenneth Patchen from 1972 / My Freshman year english notebook / Packard's signature on the gifted NYQ