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Philip Fried

Introduction: In Memory of Marion K. Stocking (1922-2009)

“Dear Philip, I’ve been reading, slowly and with great pleasure, the Fall/Winter Manhattan Review. . . .” This sentence was a typical opening for a Marion letter, and I quote it not to blow my own horn but to illustrate her generosity, attentiveness, and care. Those were the traits she displayed as co-editor, with her husband, David, of The Beloit Poetry Journal. And these traits were in evidence even after she gave up the prime responsibility for guiding that distinguished journal, for she was one of the most knowledgeable and sympathetic readers of contemporary poetry I have ever known.

And critical, too. That opening sentence was, as usual, followed by a careful analysis of the issue’s contents, explaining in detail what she liked and did not like. I might disagree and chafe at her comments, or quietly and sheepishly agree with them, but I always knew that she was my best, most responsive reader. For her, read was truly an action verb.

Her death, at 86, this year was a personal loss and a loss to the world of poetry and little-magazine publishing. Teacher, scholar of Romantic literature and folk song, environmentalist, champion of government support for the arts, little-magazine editor, reader and lover of contemporary poetry. . . as I try to define her, the terms proliferate, reflecting the keen curiosity that motivated her many interests. To witness that curiosity in action, buy and read her recently completed book, To the Wilderness (University of Delaware Press, 2009 or 2010), which chronicles her adventures in the Maine woods.

The poem that follows, “Lunch in the Holocene,” appeared in my book Big Men Speaking to Little Men, and I include it here as a tribute to her invincible spirit.


Lunch in the Holocene
for Marion Stocking

In Maine the Ice Age ended last summer
then came the 19th century
Thoreau strolling through Hallowell

It’s a bit abrupt but chronological
Egg larva pupa butterfly
pointed firs were spiky before

it was cool to have spiky green hair
glacier melt to lake to bog
to fern to spruce to eco-tourist

And while it goes on America ends
often in places like this one the jolt
and judder over the pebbly road

under the stylish glide of pines
conducting us to the editor’s cove
At lunch her talk is taking us farther

down among blueberries to see
lichens and spider-webs a drop
of dew Pick slowly choose well to stay

longer Later her meshy hat-brim’s
shadow’s volplaning like a wing
right at ground level She is telling

how hummingbirds go into a trance
to migrate The telescope like a lobster’s
eyestalk extends toward the smidgen of heaven

where Mars is swimming invisibly large
This morning the fog was fumbling at doorknobs
As the ice retreated anything might

approach From her hallway her hands bidding
goodbye are shaping with care the uncanny
change from larva to pupa that once

and for all had astonished her but go
go she insists as if we ourselves
were pupating to fly away

then steps abruptly from hall into house
eclipse attesting the finished occasion.