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’s reading at the Nov 2016 Cascadia Poetry Festival: