New Civilization News: John Tagliabue: Last Words    
 John Tagliabue: Last Words18 comments
picture3 Jun 2006 @ 08:31, by Richard Carlson

The important thing is to do, and nothing else; be what it may.

---Pablo Picasso

You yourself are time---your body, your mind, the objects around you. Plunge into the river of time and swim, instead of standing on the banks and noting the course of the currents.

---Philip Kapleau

Who whispered, souls have shapes
So has the wind, I say.
But I don't know.
I only feel things blow.

---Stanley Kunitz

John and Grace Tagliabue were photographed in the Muskie Garden at Bates College in 1998 by Phyllis Graber Jensen, shortly before their move to Providence, R.I. John died on May 31.

You can, you do...prepare---sometimes for years---for the last word, the final departure...of a friend, a loved one. But we're never really ready when it comes. Still the shock. The welling up, unexpected sobbing. Breaking down...alone or with a comforting hand upon one's shoulder. It cannot be contained. The grief.

And so it came...yesterday afternoon, while I was down at the garden, the phone call's recorded message telling me John Tagliabue is gone.

Exactly a month ago his last letter arrived announcing the "big operation" would be "tomorrow morning, might take 4 - 7 hours!!" Nearly 83, John had agreed to extreme measures to remove part of a pancreas gone bad. There were complications...and another surgery...and then the final morphine drip. With wife and 2 daughters in the room reading him his poems, John gave us the slip and danced lightly further into the fantastic. May I share with you just a few of the last things he wrote?


Dear sensitive thoughtful shaken one, Shakespeare student, praised actor, stirring one, Dick Carlson,

I wanted to cheer myself up a bit
so I remembered what Amy Clampitt wrote about me:
"John Tagliabue writes out of a deeply sacramental sense of nature and history. He is, moreover, that rare person to whom poetry appears to come as naturally as breathing. It comes to this reader, poem by poem, as a Franciscan act of courtesy and praise."

The Collected Poem

I didn't want to be
an entertainment commodity
a seminar commodity
an attitude to be approved of
by this fashion or that ideology
I had no plans or programs or theories for it
but it was from my heart
of no importance
of all importance
it was not to be named or foretold
it alone gave me freedom.

Particularity and
some also call it freedom and Democracy

Something in
my biological nature
(it must be cosmic ? ) wants me to get up and
yawn and
then pee and then have my 1st meal of the day,
coffee, breakfast,
and later more, day by day, mile by mile,
to imbibe,
to chew, to make faces and acts, to act up,
to have
more or less yearnings, how habitual ! to write
phrases, millions
of them, moods, billions of them, to listen to
the more and more
hideous world news, politics, economics, murders
and murders,
indeed one has to be strong, very strong, to get
through the
so called ordinary day year after year after year,
and now it's
almost 82 years that the biological and cosmic functions
have been particular
in me.

Drizzle and repeating Success

The delicate new leaves are certainly being visited
by thousands of
delicate rain drops day after day after day and
the young bridegroom
is visiting night after night and often in the daytime
too the new
young bride she of the delicate skin, hands sliding
on the body,
warmth in the ease, the curve of the young breast,
the penetration
of the mesmerized devout husband, he who plays
like a light
magician and musican on the instrument of bliss
with the
happy instrument of bliss and all around for
miles and
miles and forever are the necessary new blossoms
the drizzle and the continuous dizziness night after
day after day in the delicate celebration of
marriage perfection.

Master T.S. Eliot finely pronounced it the Waste Land

From my lofty 4th floor window
I see it,
there goes off the 1st black car of the day,
a man
in a tin can gliding like a coffin, drizzle
business day, from computer to computer, from sigh
to sigh,
poor trapped man industrious and trapped in his bureaucracy
while more
nuclear bombs are being prepared, more nuclear waste
is being
piled up, while more fresh young soldiers are being
sent off
to be slaughtered - for Democracy for Freedom for
Wall Street
for Corporation and Madness and More Corporations and
some more coffins will glide by in Edgar Allen Poe's
of Quote the Raven and Advertisements, Dental Ads
and Viagra
and Constipation Cures, More Advertisements for Cars and
Cheerfulness in
Routine Despair.

and from the last letter...these 4~~~

And faith ? Certainly Charity

They don't care about that - the frivolity,
the foolishness,
the insane ambitions of politics, illusions
ridiculous of "power" -
the Springtime daffodils, magnolia, blossoms
of all kinds, they
simply Appear, miraculously Appear; I ask you
song of myself and
friends not to disappear but be enlightened as
the daffodils, as
April thoughts of resurrection, baffle elate,
not late,
the future centuries with hope.

All kinds at the bib, bibles, 1st and last suppers

What are you going to do to make it,
lo Spirito Santo ?
the mosquito, the weed, the clown, the tormented
philosopher, what ?
Hamlet at the crossroads mumbling to the gravediggers,
Christ on the
Cross Exhausted, He who gave away His sermon on the Mount,
He who
said with Him we can move all mountains. Someone with a
in his eyes and humored looked up from the spaghetti he was
and said - good, you like to philosophize, you help us pass
the time.

Being is its own reward for being.
Beauty is its own reward for being.

Weeping is its own wet reward,
I hear the pitter patter of the rain,
it is twice blessed, it blesses him or her
that gives
and those who hear and see and sometimes sing; weep,
O skies,
you skies that Turner in his glory, that Tiepolo
in his
glory also and others, tried to paint; we faint
from weeping,
we fortunate to have loved and loved and loved.
Skies could not
be higher than we weeping. Sleep awhile, keep
the secrets
of what we call infinity. "The more I give, the
more I have,
for both are

Sensitive Observer, be a night in armor

the man on the Cross or
the person at the dark or shattering light
in pain or perplexity is great pain for the
mother or
lover, receiving the news of the agony or death,
the amputation
or blindness of the son or soldier perplexes
as pain can do unto death; dear weeping
tortured relative, if you must weep weep - not
then sleep,
awake and lifetime recollect all my thoughts
and acts
of love.

John Tagliabue's last words to me were these~~~

What I know as I Approach 83 is that much is unknown & that I've had a most helpful wonderful wife & loved family & good friends (you are one of them - ); and I want to say thanks - & Best Wishes to us all



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3 Jun 2006 @ 22:58 by Quinty @ : Another final departure
"You can, you do...prepare---sometimes for years---for the last word, the final departure...of a friend, a loved one. But we're never really ready when it comes. Still the shock. The welling up, unexpected sobbing. Breaking down...alone or with a comforting hand upon one's shoulder. It cannot be contained. The grief. "

And that's poetry too. But what can one say when a good friend goes that way? It reminds us that we are all basically on the same journey. And in that thought we know how both alike and unique we are, each of us. Grief has its positive aspects, since it always takes us back to the basics.

Anyway, I'm getting long winded. I didn't know this poet. He left his work: the only thing that matters for any artist.

Take care, Paul  

3 Jun 2006 @ 23:50 by hgoodgame : A sensitive and moving tribute..
Though I did not know the man, I can feel his essence thru his poetry.

'we fortunate to have loved and loved and loved'
Thank you for sharing this last bit of your connection to another spectacular human being.  

4 Jun 2006 @ 07:35 by jstarrs : Thanks for sharing, Jazz...
..I've lost some family members & good friends over recent years and these moments, when Death comes to humble us, are, as you say, always the most difficult things we have to handle.
I've come to respect enormously, the lesson that Death gives us, each time, about impermance & change that are constantly with us.  

5 Jun 2006 @ 00:57 by jazzolog : Thank You Friends
In a way, the diversion of a previously scheduled intensive with Democracy For America training at Ohio State eased the pain of this loss. I appreciate the comments now upon return from Columbus.  

5 Jun 2006 @ 10:34 by dempstress : I'm sorry
that you have lost a dear friend, but glad that you both had that friendship. The man has moved on but the friendship will always be there.  

5 Jun 2006 @ 14:46 by jobrown : Dear Jazzo,
Remember Dr Zchivago-Movie and the Theme-song there? One of the most powerful Love songs in the world ( in my opinion ) : "Somehwere my Love ( or let's say 'Friend')
I know we'll meet again" etc. Let that thought comfort you as Life is ever more Mysterious than any of us can even dream up in our wildest Dreams! You'll meet your friend again one day, and you will both be alive, more alive than ever before - in a much lighter density than todays Earth density!/Hugs/A-d  

10 Jun 2006 @ 16:45 by jerryvest : I loved John's poems....
thanks for sharing these beautiful closing and loving moments with us. It's pretty nice to have a loving friend with a golden heart and spirit. I'm sure he will be with you forever. Jerry  

11 Jun 2006 @ 10:03 by starborn33 : thank
Thank you for sharing your feelings and the poems of this wonderful soul.I'm sure his spirit will be with you just in an instant moment, when you think of him,no more then one breath away.
Life is so precious ,because it can easily slip away.This reminds us to appreciate it day by day.  

12 Jun 2006 @ 08:16 by jazzolog : The Mario Puppet Plays
In my writing about John, I don't think I've ever mentioned this collection of plays that generations of students may consider his masterpiece. Never published or performed professionally (that I heard about) they were written in the early '50s in Florence, once or twice performed by students in Maine with puppets created by John's wife, Grace, and rarely read live for audiences down through the years. I once participated in a reading, playing Mario, at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, back in the late '60s I think it was. Mostly word of the plays has been passed down by Tagliabue's students at Bates, but except for the first time in 1957 never at John's initiation.

The student who was asked by John to play Mario way back then is Paul Hoffman, who now lives outside Chicago. He recently has assembled an edition of the plays, with preface and introduction by John. In the 12 plays we meet the vast array of characters involved in Mario's epic quest for his lost love, the Princess Carlotta: Professor Saltincelli, Scanizzi, Pescatore Puzzolo, Crazy Jane, Bozo, and of course the immense Green Queen, who was most delightfully played by John himself. He guarded the plays like his own children and only in his last years allowed some of us to attempt to get them performed. I don't know when the last time was you went looking for a professional puppet troupe---with enough money to pay royalties for material---but I'm here to tell you they're few and far between.

On July 1st, which is John's birthday, his widow Grace, and their 2 daughters, have arranged a setting in Providence, Rhode Island, for all of us to come together to remember John with poetry and song. Somehow she has organized his address book enough to send out invitations all over the world...and I imagine word is spreading in other ways too. If you know someone with one---like me---and you want to come, I'm sure something can be arranged. What I'm doing, behind the scenes, is working with 3 other guys, none of whom ever has met each other, to mount at least one of the plays---or part of one---for some kind of presentation at the memorial. I think it will be a nice contrast to the readings of many poems that people will want to do. I'll let you know how it comes along.  

12 Jun 2006 @ 10:44 by swanny : Art Activism
I'd have to agree with your departed friend
My sympathies to all...

Art is of no importance yet
It is of all importance.

I suppose for these last 20 or 30 years
I have been amoung some of these "art activists"
and we often wonder I suppose if our life's work
has been of importance or made a difference.

It doesn't bring in the money unless ones decides to prostitute it
sorry don't want to sully the thread.... unless one decides to simply
entertain... but no ... As your friends work suggest art in the
true sense as such is
more a prayer of sorts and do prayers work.....

well .... sometimes and sometimes not during ones lifetime, sadly.

Sympathies to all art activists


17 Jun 2006 @ 04:31 by judih : much appreciation
A great voice, a rational voice, a non-death voice
a voice of life - an observer of banal, ludicrous, joyous
and i appreciate hearing this voice.
it sometimes takes death to rekindle life within those who go on  

17 Jun 2006 @ 09:23 by jazzolog : Missing Judih
I feel so much admiring
for your inspiring
that I must express how much I wish
you could be with us in Providence
for this memorial thing.
The more I learn of it and who's coming
the greater it is looking to be.
O good golly, if you have some air miles or something
now's the time!  

17 Jun 2006 @ 10:25 by judih : i'd love to be there
shout a hidden part for me
i'm heading states-side but only towards the 26th.

i'll be landing in NY, heading towards connecticut and maybe somehow trip up to toronto.

your voice will be richer for the giving. Give it all, Richard! The audience will hear your fervour.  

28 Jun 2006 @ 01:41 by John Holt @ : J.A.T., 1923-2006
Thanks, Dick, for articulating so well what those of us who knew and loved John must be feeling. He was the Sage of Lewiston and the ball of light that woke us up and helped us see the 'sticky little leaves' as they emerged in the spring from their tight buds. He was the Buddha Uproar at dawn on Mt. David, masked dancer, Dionysian spirit, Vishnu by the Androscoggin. You seem to have been the Student who was ready for the Master to arrive. In the years since graduation, whenever he wrote to me, I always felt honored but a bit unworthy; for he was a Sage, and we were damned lucky to have had the opportunity to know him. Anyway, if I can help out on the Mario plays, let me know. I'm planning to come on July 1. Hope to see you.

Dr. John R. Holt is Chair of Department of English & Foreign Languages at Centenary College in New Jersey. It will have been about 40 years, I think, since we've seen each other when we all get together in Providence this Saturday. Another bit of grace from the Internet.


10 Jul 2006 @ 17:47 by Diane Davies @ : John Tagliabue
I too was deeply affected by John Tagliabue's death. We had been writing to one another since I graduated from Bates back in 1978, and I remember the last time we visited him and Grace in Providence how pleased he was that Garrison Keillor had read some of his poetry over the radio, and played a recording of the broadcast for us. That was about 9 or 10 years ago. Here in England there is a radio programme on radio 4 called "Poetry Please!" which takes requests via email. I have been trying for some time now to get "under the brim of my shaking straw hat" read on the air; or indeed of any of John's poems. As I believe there is strength in numbers, perhaps fellow friends and fans of his poetry can email their requests to: . If they are inundated with enough requests, perhaps they can be moved to read out some of his poetry over here. I had hoped that this would be possible while he was still alive; in fact I told him about my efforts to get him read on the air over here in my last letter to him shortly before he died, but it wasn't to be. Still, the world needs to hear more of his work. Those of us who knew and loved him were very lucky indeed. It is shocking, like he used to say the death of Mercutio was shocking, to see so much vitality snuffed out forever. So that he may not wholely die then, do what you can to keep his poetry alive.

Many thanks!

Diane Davies  

25 Jul 2007 @ 12:17 by John Tagliabue @ : Amazing journey
Wow, What an amazing journey through all of your words about and from John Tagliabue.
My name is also John Tagliabue ( Australia), and I am related to Battista Tagliabue from Como Italy. He came out to Australia in 1873 and the Tagliabue's bred and I am here now typing on this keyboard because of that. I knew nothing of John Tagliabue the poet, until I read his obituary on the blog. My Uncle John Tagliabue here in Australia wrote a book a few years ago. It must run in the blood! I would like to know more of John Tagliabue and his poetry. I have been to Italy, America, England, France, Sweden, Ireland, Malayasia and have seen culture and history from bygone generations that we dont have here in Australia. Our oldest building is 150 years old, not thousands of years old. The Aborigines of Australia lived out in the bush and did not build dwellings that we can look back on like other countries.Their 40,000 year history is in their words, their dreams and their cave paintings. What a magnificent culture. We are out under the Stars at night and the sun in the day. We are surrounded by water and white sands and no pollution (where I am anyway.)
So poetry can be handed down,spread out,delivered,shared,distributed,and perhaps that is a way of keeping tradition. Instead of Buildings we can have words. Funny thing is words do not have borders. Words are something that you live and die with. The minute you are born you are closer to saying your first word. The minute you are born you are closer to saying your last.Death is the great equaliser of life. We all get there 100% guaranteed without doubt without maybes and without any of our things, our stuff, our blongings, our money, our car,our house, our pet.I have enjoyed this journey of poetry. Thanks.  

2 Aug 2007 @ 10:08 by jazzolog : I Have To Admit
John's comment here gave me the boost I needed to contact Grace Tagliabue with this news about the clan from Como, and to continue my praise of her inspiration to this fine poet and teacher. I also wrote an update yesterday at jazzoLOG about the Tabliabue legacy.  

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