21 February 2016

Robert Bertholf (1940-2016)

talk abt complicated relationships. Bob & I alternated between civility & combat. he regarded me as a lightweight & hated my poetry. he calld one of my books "a piece of shit."  at the time I certainly was pissd at him but over the years I came to admire him for at least telling me that to my face. however he remains a controversial figure who probably has more detractors than fans.

when he was abt to leave Kent State I tried to take the high road. I got Robert Duncan -- who he worshipped -- to give me a poem which I turnd into a splendid broadside as a farewell token. Bob seemd appreciative but then cdn't resist being Bob.  he askd me for the manuscript & all correspondence I had with Duncan. sorry Bob -- that's now in my papers at Kent.

this may be the only photo in which we share space.  I had a small party at my place in Twin Lakes at which I presentd him with the broadside. I'm over on the left. then my mentor Howard P. Vincent & poet Richard Blevins. Bob is in the hat.


Anonymous said...

as a tr-bute
to a complicat'd
update the Bertholf

Jack Ramey said...

Excellent post, Alex. Ah memoria. Woke up thinking of Bob Bertholf. His door (office and house) were generally open to students to drop by, have a beer and chat about poetry. I took 3 courses with him and he influenced my development quite a bit now that I think about it. A writing poetry course was memorable: Bob Lewis, Patrick Cullie, Michael McCafferty, Phil St. Clair, and myself. Bertholf brought in as guests: John Ciardi, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and of course, Ed Dorn. His Modern American Poetry course focused mainly on his beloved Black Mountain poets. I and I think Bob and Patrick took his American Lit survey course the first semester he came to Kent. He told the students in a large lecture hall: “I am not an English professor. I am a Wonder Bread salesman.” We all thought that was far out and we loved him from that moment on. Or at least I did. Bob Lewis and I once, for a lark, taped the audio of an episode of Adam-12, a nasty little cop drama in which a young girl smokes some pot, flips out, locks herself in her bedroom with a gun and threatens to shoot herself. The cornball boys in blue talk her down and into coming out. We brought it to Bertholf’s Writing Poetry class and turned the machine on. Bob B was not amused, but he went along with the gag as some sort of performance art happening. Lewis at times referred to him as a frustrated hockey player. And you are right, Alex. He could be contentious. I have often wanted to reestablish contact with him. But life got in the way. Now death has. Rest in peace, Doctor Bob.

Bob Lewis said...

Greetings, Alex, just noticed this entry and needed to chime in. Bertholf could be difficult, altho he was always a pussycat with me and I don't really know why. He brought mega-doses of culture to the hinter-land and introduced me to Dorn when I helped move a washer/dryer set into Ed's green house on Lake Street for which I shall be eternally grateful. I cannot tell Joe much I miss the opportunities to call them on the phone and resume the conversations we enjoyed over decades. Pax.