Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
‘Poet, novelist, and the grande dame of belles letters’
by Frank Robertson
Sonoma West Staff Writer
Published: Friday, July 23, 2010 10:57 AM PDT
A celebration in the Sebastopol Community Center this Saturday (July 24) will pay tribute to Marianne Ware, the West County poet and teacher who died in Santa Rosa on June 21. She was 74.
The cause of death was complications from diabetes, said friends.
Ware was a founding member of the Russian River Writers Guild in the 1980s and became a beloved teacher and mentor to innumerable West County writers who praised her wit, passion, irreverence and progressive political activism.
“She was an outspoken, flamboyant, creative person who really wanted to help other people find themselves through writing,” said Sonoma County writer Simone Wilson, who met Ware in the 1980s when the Russian River Writers Guild held weekly poetry readings at Garbo’s, a bar and community gathering place in a former bowling alley in Guernewood Park.
A Marianne Ware Memorial Page is now accessible online where friends have posted messages in her memory.
“Poet, novelist and the grande dame of belles letters — the epistolary packin’ mama and mentor of countless Sonoma County writers,” wrote writer and Russian River Writers Guild member Maureen Hurley.
Ware was retired from teaching english and creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College. Her most recent book, “The meaning of Water,” was published this year as part of a Redwood Writers project through the California Writers Club.
The collection of stories “runs the gamut from intense childhood experiences to contemporary satire aimed at genealogists, would-be poetry contest winners and Vegan dietary diehards,” said a Redwood Writers Club description of the book that’s available online at redwoodwriters.org.
The book “was something she was so proud of at the end of her life,” said friend and fellow writer Kate Farrell. “It was a special part of the last years of her life.”
Ware moved to Guerneville with her husband and three daughters in 1969, organized and energized numerous creative writing groups over the years and produced several volumes of poetry and prose of her own.
She received her MFA degree from Vermont College in 1984 and published poetry, fiction and non-fiction in more than a hundred literary magazines, anthologies and tabloids including “Red Diaper Babies: Growing up in the Communist Left” (University of Illinois Press); “Salt Water, Sweet Water” and Cartwheels on the Faultline” (Florient Press). Her work has also appeared in Iowa Woman, the Modularist Review, Green Fuse and many others. She was the recipient of an NEA grant for her fiction. Her poetry chapbook, “Bodies Nearly Touching,” was published by Doris Green Editions. A satiric novel, “The Warzog Era,” followed.
Ware shared her love of writing, along with her enthusiasm and irreverent sense of humor with generations of students over her 21 years as an English teacher at SRJC.
“The only things she loved more than a good book or a beautifully written poem were her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” said her family. “Her lively wit and gift with words lives on in them.”
She is survived by her husband of 55 years, David Ware; daughters, Laurie Celli, Wendy Whitson, and Carrie Ware-Kawamoto; grandchildren, Angelo, Vincent, Nicholas, Gabriel, Rosemary, Mia, and Carly; and great-grandchildren, Sofia and Dylan.
She had wanted an “awake” before her death, rather than a wake, said friends.
The July 24 memorial will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Sebastopol Community Center Youth Annex, 390 Morris Street, Sebastopol.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I first met Marianne through Lee Perron—they were coordinating the Russian River Writers' Guild. I was newly arrived to poetry, and before I knew it, I was roped into the Writers' Guild, which became both my teething ring and my training ground.
Little did I know, I was also fresh fodder—grist for the mill—to help run it. And later, I was left holding the bag. But I learned to stick it out for the duration. At the time, I was living out of my car after a bad breakup. She even found me a place to live—at her daughter Laurie's cabins.
Because Marianne was adamant that prose also be represented at the RRWG reading series, and because of her, I learned to dabble in prose. Dyslexic that I am, I discovered what writing—like people—came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Not just poems and stories, but letters, notes, lists. They all served to inform.
Marianne brought the light of writing into the lives of so many of us. She encouraged us to find our own true authentic voice. To spread our wings and to fly close—but not too close—to the sun. She always encouraged the next generation of fledgling writers: Doug Powell, Glenn Ingersoll, Trane deVore. The Guild offered a platform for new and established writers to read together.
We booked poets & writers—even musicians from near and far to share their love of the word. Utah Phillips, Rosalee Sorrells, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Ed Balchowski. Some of the writers she encouraged made it to the big stage: Andrei Codrescu, Michael Oandatje, D.A. Powell, Jane Hirshfield come to mind. But the history of the Guild is a whole other story. We are here to honor Marianne today.
It takes a lot of energy to run a poetry & prose reading series. Little by little, Marianne was letting go, transferring the reins of power over to us—as she had set her sights in another direction. She wanted to finish her epistolary novel about growing up red diaper baby.
Marianne was a consummate political activist like her father before her, and her arena was fighting discrimination against women and she was an outspoken spokesperson for people with disabilities. And though she had major health issues, she persevered. She taught me to fight the system and take a stance to redress societal wrongs. She taught me that poetry matters.
Marianne turned that determination to earn a MFA at Goddard. I admired her steadfastness. She became the phoenix, and shed her old self. Resurrected, she was. And it led her to the next significant part of her life's work as an English/ Creative Writing instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College. And despite physical hardship and mounting health issues, she persevered. She empowered another generation of would-be writers to follow their own voice.
I met Marianne during her second life transition—from mother and wife, to that of writer. I also witnessed the next transition from writer to teacher and from teacher to sage. But her reign as sage was cut short too soon. She taught me to live in the moment. We are all here "For the duration" as Marianne would say.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
In The Meaning of Water, Marianne tells us she began distance swimming even before her full adolescence. Whether swimming or rowing, water was always her medium. In the same book Marianne depicts with horrific clarity the roiling waters of adolescent confusion and heart-ache. These were for Marianne really the same waters. She was, finally, the master of both. She mastered the one by swimming thrice weekly in public pools through much of her adult life, and she mastered the other by means of freely flowing ink. Through talking, saying, writing -- with both plaintive voice and a commanding presence -- she always kept afloat. And our swimmer has not drowned even now.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Published in the Press Democrat from July 3 to July 4, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Marianne was my dear friend for 34 years. There are so many stories to tell, so many memories. Where do I begin? A blog is not enough space!
Our friendship was a rare thing. Marianne was a friend, a sister, and a mentor. While I often felt that I was the Sancho Panza to her Don Quixote during our time with the Russian River Writers' Guild, she insisted that I always see myself as a writer before anything else. In addition to her writing, I was in awe of her political activism and her social conscience. A "red diaper baby," Marianne never forgot the downtrodden or disenfranchised. In her eyes, every person had worth, something to say, something to contribute.
And there were funny times, too. She liked to call me her "lesbian lover," despite the fact that neither of us was a lesbian. But I understood her quirky humor: we were soul mates. We'd often have lunch at the Northwood Lodge, just outside of Guerneville, which she referred to it as "our place." She would sneak a hamburger and beg me not to tell Dave. She never fully latched on to the tenets of vegetarianism
So, how do you blog about such deep friendship and love? It's impossible. The Internet could never contain all that was Marianne Ware. All I can say is, how extraordinary my life has been for having Marianne in it "for the duration" (her words). Adiós, mi amor. Te quiero.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Marianne's memorial will be on Saturday, July 24th from 3:30-5:00 p.m., in the Youth Annex of the Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. Please pass this along to anyone else who knew her.
Hope to see you there,