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Monday, March 06, 2006

More on Ruth Taylor



Below I've copied the words of one of my mentors and friends from my glory daze at John Abbott College, Endre Farkas. It's a raw, touching post; one that speaks for itself:


Poet Ruth Taylor died By Endre Farkas
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Ruth first entered my life in the mid seventies, in my creative writing class, with a mischievous smile and challenging eyes. She claimed that we met before that, when I was invited to read at Vaudreuil Catholic High to a group of grade 11 students and she introduced herself. She always had a better memory than me. Sometimes, she would quote me lines and when I asked whose it was, she would tell me that they were mine. She would also, when we would be walking, or driving somewhere or sitting on a back porch, in a park or a bar quote at the drop of a whim The Wasteland, Jaberwocky, Little Bateese, No Parking, In Guildernstern’s County and so much more. Maybe part of Ruth’s problem was that she remembered too much.

She occasionally reminded me that when she was my student, I had handed back a poem of hers with the comment “I asked for an avocado and you gave me an onion”. I don’t remember doing that nor do I know what I meant by it. We were so much younger then, but she said that for her it meant that I was treating her as a fellow poet. Ruth was always reading into the world what most never saw.

I remember Ruth in my Laird Hall office, where I conducted my creative writing classes, sitting under my desk and when a dilettante student would read one his or her poems that she didn’t approve of, watch her arm extend out and her palm move as if she were squishing something. It was her way of saying it was shit. The others in the class were afraid of that arm extending from under the desk, like a dragon emerging from a cave. But she was also generous and a champion to those who really cared.

Ruth had an enormous capacity for caring and loving. She was a mensch and quite a few of us benefited, sought and got comfort from this wild, passionate and lonely woman-child.

Very soon, I knew Ruth as a fellow poet who was touched by the madness of poetry, poems of infinite skill, richly woven and textured and of mystical depth appearing as The Drafting Board and The Dragon Papers. And I remember late nights on her back porch in Ste Anne, one minute cursing me for introducing her to the scene and in the next, with a smoke and drink, saluting the gods and goddesses of the word and declaring herself their mouthpiece.

We also worked together in the poetic community. We spent countless hours, editing, typesetting, cutting and pasting, proof reading, midnight running to the obscure corners of Montreal to pick up boxes of books for launches, and then sitting in La Cabane toasting our adventures.

Ruth lived life at an intensity that was always on the brink of combustion. She was driven by a childlike innocence that found wonder in everything around her and a mystical calling that left her profoundly alone. Most of us had a very complex relationship with Ruth. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She couldn’t have it any other way. We weren’t here to be ordinary. She couldn’t let herself be and she couldn’t let us be.

And because of this, Ruth didn’t have an easy life. She was hard on herself and could be on others. She could be one moment intensely loving and profound and the next frustratingly petulant and pushy and self centered. And everything in-between, like all of us, but unlike most of us, she wasn’t good at "politesse" and therefore was not able to navigate the world that is too much with us.

But whichever Ruth I encountered, I knew at the core was an overwhelming love and life. And sadly, the person who would move mountains for others could not
shake off weights that settled on her and could not accept helping hands that reached out to her.

Ruth, I am angry at you for that. I love you Ruth but I’m pissed at you for thinking that no one knew as much or could give you a helping hand. If you were so smart, how come you have come to this? And Ruth I am really pissed at you for taking off so soon.

And I am sad that I will not have any more late nights with you, staring up at dragons and dreams. But I will look up on starry nights and look for you among the constellations riding the cosmic comet, bugle to lips, leading the charge across the heavens.

I think Endre speaks for me better than I can speak for myself. Like I said in an earlier post, I barely knew Ruth, and I hadn't seen her in a decade, maybe more. And yet, I feel her absence, and I feel as though maybe I knew her better than I thought, because I see so much of myself in how Endre described her; I'm prone to the kind of combustible intensity Endre described; I have very complex relationships with everyone I know; "Petulant, lonely man-child" can often be used to describe me; I'm hard on myself AND on others, and I'm more than a little sure that my friends and family would describe me as someone who can be "...one moment intensely loving and profound and the next frustratingly petulant and pushy and self centered. And everything in-between, like all of us, but unlike most of us, not good at "politesse"..."

I realize now that I mourn Ruth Taylor because she and I were at least on some level kindred, the same soul, the same fire. Whether it had been ten years or ten thousand since I'd last seen her, when Ruth died, a part of my own flame was forever extinguished.

Ruth, I wish we'd have been friends, though I suspect if we had been, we would have died sooner, and with our hands locked around each other's throats. As much as Endre curses you for failing to live, I curse myself for failing to make you into a friend.

I'll miss you Ruth, just for what I'll never know.

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