Winter 2010

Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 4

Poetry Fiction NonFiction Reviews

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka

A Tribute to Stacy Johnson Tuthill

Stacy Johnson Tuthill, Baltimore–Washington, D.C. area writer, poet, small press publisher, and teacher, died on October 19, 2010.

Stacy was an award-winning author of six books, including her most recent volume of poetry, Painting in the Dark. During her lifetime, she published over 200 articles, short stories, essays, and poems in literary magazines and anthologies. In 1976, she founded SCOP Publications, Inc., through which she edited and published books of Maryland poets, mainly women, such as the anthologies Rye Bread: Women Poets Rising (1977) and Second Rising (1979).

I first met Stacy at a Barnes & Noble promotion of LAURELS: Eight Women Poets, a handsome SCOP Publications, Inc., hardcover that she edited and published in 1998.

As Stacy wrote in the Introduction to LAURELS: Eight Women Poets, “This book is entirely an initiative of SCOP Publications, Inc. Board members have chosen to bring together the views and poems of the eight women poets who served as Consultants or Poets Laureate to the Library of Congress. . . . I believe that the essays in this volume demonstrate the differing ways in which these eight poets conceived their role at the Library, while sharing common imperatives inherent in the poet’s vocation.”

In the Editor’s Notes to LAURELS: Eight Women Poets, Stacy further explained the genesis of the anthology: “The book had its inception as the editors of SCOP Publications, Inc. were searching for a way to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the press. . . . It came to our attention, also, that over the past sixty years, although we had a flood of talented women poets in the United States, only eight have been selected [to serve as Consultant or Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress]. It came to our attention, also, that after the term of Elizabeth Bishop approximately 30 years elapsed before another woman, Josephine Jacobsen, was offered the position.”

At the memorial service for Stacy, held on Friday, October 29 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, Charlestown Retirement Community, Baltimore, where Stacy and her husband Dean F. Tuthill had lived for a number of years, family and community members spoke of Stacy not only as a great wife, mother, poet, and writer but also a champion of education for the underprivileged, especially women of all ages in the United States and in developing countries. A woman from Africa, dressed in a traditional ceremonial garb, celebrated her memory and thanked God for people like Stacy. This African lady had met Stacy when she came to Kenya to help her rural community. Stacy later helped and encouraged the lady to pursue higher education after she arrived in the United States.

Stacy traveled extensively in Africa, Europe, China, and Latin America as a quest reader, a teacher, and a volunteer aid worker.

She graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1948, and followed up with an M.S. from the University of Illinois. She also attended the Universidad Nacional de Mexico and intermittently studied whatever interested her at the University of Maryland.

I remember Stacy’s drive to understand things, to learn in detail, to observe and explain. At the service, her son remarked that, if she was to have a second chance, she would have been a scientist.

After I learned about Stacy’s death, I had the opportunity to present a tribute to her at the monthly poetry reading in the OneTree Poetry Events series at the Carroll County Arts Center in Westminster, Maryland. I gave a short summary of her life’s story and showed her picture from the Second Rising in those big, round horn-rimmed glasses. This was not the Stacy I knew for all these years. However, a person in the audience recognized her as her high-school English teacher. Then I read three poems. The first poem is one of my favorite poems by Stacy, from Second Rising, recalling her travel experiences—a poem with a variety of currents running through it:

We Are Tired of Voyages

(apologies to Joseph Conrad)

We are tired of voyages,
inland journeys, the slime of ancient rivers,
the looming outlines of dark figures,
and the small, red eyes of cooking fires.
Years ago our pulses danced to primitive rhythms
of Congo drums (with heads stretched tight
as kudu skins) pounding away the awful fears
of shadowy things, unseen and monstrous.

Rituals seldom move us now.
We have lost the art of searching out our secret selves
in tall, bent grass of some strange darkness.
We can ignore the pointed teeth of cannibals,
the fetid stench of rotting hippo meat,
the malaria of wars, the rusty guns of pilgrims.
And we offer thin excuses for the games men
play with dominoes whittled from human bones.

Now, here we sit, benign as Buddhas.
Our masks are as yellow as old ivory.
Our riddled minds, sucked into TV sets,
rise on mist, electrostatic, crackling,
and slither off the tips of antennae.
Smiling, we float to a space beyond the moon
as illusive as Marlow’s lies.

Stacy and I spent a lot of quality time together at different poetry events. In 2003, I was present at the meeting between Stacy and the Polish poet Lidia Kosk, my mother, who at the time was doing a reading tour for her first bilingual Polish-English poetry book niedosyt/ reshapings, for which I have translated more than 40 poems. Despite no command of each other’s native tongue, the two of them quickly found a common language in poetry and truly enjoyed each other’s company. Stacy’s appreciation for Lidia Kosk’s book included attention to its physical presentation, such as the fact that the evenness of the cover showed that the printer and binder had done their jobs right. Stacy, the publisher, with a knack for a job well done!

At the OneTree Poetry Events reading in Westminster, I also celebrated Stacy with poems by two women who hail from a different continent: Lidia Kosk, who lives in Poland, and I, for the past 30 years a Marylander straddling two worlds—Poland and the United States.

For the event, Lidia Kosk had asked me to read her poem, “Curious About the World,” in appreciation of their shared curiosity for life, science, the inquiring mind, and insatiability:

Curious About the World

And if I am given the chance
again and once again
to look at the marvel of this world
through eyelashes, like petals
of an apple flower

again and once again
to taste the juicy fruit
imbued in human history
of climbing, reaching up

again and once again
I will reach up
curious about the world
I have not learned enough

Then, I read the following poem of my own:

In Memoriam

Perhaps while at a crossroad,
from under the linden looking up
at the wind in the wells of light,
picking a crumb of a broken jar,
half way through a word in a book densely written
or in a thought still uncommitted,
like the green angels on the autumn meadows
gradually poets are dying

© Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka

Poetry Fiction NonFiction Reviews

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