Judith Roche, Rest in Power

November 14, 2019

Judith Roche

I was saddened to hear the news via Facebook that Judith Roche died at her home in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood tonight. (Thursday, November 14, 2019). I had a chance to visit her last week and she was not able to speak after having several strokes. I attempted to let her know telepathically that I loved her and to have strength in her journey. I am very grateful that I had a chance to see her one last time and that she told her daughter Tari that she would like to see me was much appreciated.

As I said many times when introducing her at different SPLAB events, she ran the Bumbershoot Literary stage at the height of its excellence, with a broad aesthetic range shaped by her studies with Robert Duncan and her friendship with Diane di Prima, two giants in the New American Poetry. Her stewardship of that stage was like the beginning of the literary season in Seattle after the summers when the Seattle literary arts were, by and large, on hold. The list of giants she had read there is like a who’s who in North American poetry. When she left that post, Bumbershoot was never the same. Her own work was informed by the New American poetry, but had a grace and feminine power, like the work of her friend Diane di Prima. This in an era where it was not an easy role to have. She mastered it. We shared Midwest roots. She was from Detroit and I grew up in Chicago and I felt we had many affinities.

The Seattle literary arts community is not the same tonight. I am grateful I had a chance to interview her in 2016 and it is likely the last time she was interviewed. Rest in power dear poet.

Judith Roche Interview

See also:

https://southseattleemerald.com/2019/11/22/judith-roche-obituary/ and

Judith’s reading at the Nov 2016 Cascadia Poetry Festival:



  1. Alison Jennings

    Thank you for this post and interview, Paul. I think I knew that Judith was getting ready to slip her own bonds when I met her at the Cascadia Festival this year. We talked about how we had been in the same Hugo House class in 2015, and I asked whether she would be teaching a class there. She seemed reticent to commit to it. At the Hugo House class that we were students in, Judith was always so gracious and supportive of my tentative attempts at poetry. I just bought her latest book, because I sensed that I wanted something of hers to help me get through her imminent departure. Alison Jennings

  2. Sharon Cumberland

    Thank you, Paul, for this announcement. Jim and I were able to visit her Sunday and say farewell. Since then I’ve been working on a poem to her— one of many tributes I’m sure she will receive from so many of us who love her and are grateful to her for all she has done for poetry. Her years with us in the Greenwood Poets were a blessing to us all.

  3. rinebird

    So sorry,Paul. It’s a blessing from her, to request your visit week. .

  4. StanleydelGozo

    Alo-HA Paul et al…Thank you for this wonderful “Rest In Power” Bon Voyage Judith Roche…Salmon Suite is a truly bio of our blessed nw salmon…StanleydelGozo

  5. Jane Swanson

    Sorry I did not get to meet her— still have my acceptance letter from Judith Roche Bumbershoot 1989.

  6. Cate Gable

    Paul: I’ve been snowbirding and just got word now of Judith’s death. Was shocked as the last time I saw her I had no notion that she was ill. We first met at the beginning of LitFuse in Mighty Tieton years ago and found instant common ground on salmon and PNW ecology. Also discovered we were both fans of Gertrude Stein. We’ve lost another powerhouse. Carpe diem!

  7. Alice Gillette

    It was a lucky accident that I got to know Judith as a member of Greenwood Poets.I valued her strong presence and her love for the natural world. And what tremendous energy she had! I wish I could have known her earlier.


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