Monday, July 19, 2010

Patricia Clark Smith (Valentine's Day 1943--July 11 2010

Poet, writer and activist Patricia Clark Smith and her John Crawford (Westend Press publisher)

I lifted this obituary from the Albuquerque Journal. I'm sure John wrote it, with the help of many friends and Pat's two sons, Joshua and Caleb.

Patricia (Pat) Clark Smith died peacefully at Women's Hospital in Albuquerque Sunday evening, July 11, 2010. She had been admitted four days earlier and died of successive organ failure. She was surrounded at death by her husband John Crawford; her two sons, Joshua and Caleb; members of her extended family, and her friends; She is survived by her two brothers, Mike Clark, 64, and James Clark, 61; and her two sons, Joshua Smith, 43, and Caleb Smith, 40. A memorial service will be held at the University of New Mexico chapel at 5:00 Tuesday, July 20, 2010. The public is invited to attend. Patricia was born on Valentine's Day in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1943 and lived with her mother, grandmothers, and aunts while her father was serving in the Army Air Corps. When her father returned from the service and the war ended, the family moved to Hampshire Heights, a project on the outskirts of Northampton, Massachusetts. While she was later renowned as an accomplished scholar, poet, and teacher, she always stayed close to her working-class Irish, French Canadian, and Micmac Indian roots. Her childhood friends from Hampshire Heights, whether or not they left New England, remained close to her to the end. Following the war her two brothers were born: Mike, later a sea captain, and Jim, later a musician. Patricia graduated from Deering High School in Portland, Maine in 1960. She attended Smith College as a scholarship student, graduating with a B.A. in 1964, and Yale University from 1964 to 1970, when she was awarded a Ph.D. in English. Meanwhile she married Warren Smith in 1963 and had two sons, Joshua in 1966 and Caleb in 1970. She and her husband taught at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa from 1969 to 1971. From the beginning she attracted the attention of helpful and kindly mentors. The distinguished English professor W.K. Wimsatt, his wife Margaret, and their family befriended her during the Yale years and thereafter. In 1971 her husband Warren was offered a position in the Classics Department at University of New Mexico and Pat followed, soon joining the regular English faculty. She taught English at UNM for thirty-two years, from 1971 to 2003. Early in her career at UNM she also taught at schools connected to several Navajo Indian reservations (Ramah and Sinosti) in New Mexico with a new mentor, pioneering New Mexico early childhood teacher Lenore Wolfe. In the late 1970s she and Warren Smith were divorced. She taught courses in Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman as well as American literature and creative writing. She began to expand her interests in Native American studies. One of her early Ph.D. students, Laguna Pueblo author Paula Gunn Allen, published a revised version of her doctoral dissertation as The Sacred Hoop, a groundbreaking approach to feminist studies in Native American literature, in 1986. Among Patricia's companions throughout this period were Native American writers Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortiz and Luci Tapahonso. She published the first book of her own poems, Talking to the Land, in 1979. She married teacher and small press publisher John Crawford in 1987. She published her second book of poems, Changing Your Story, in 1991. She and her husband joined UNM Professors Paul Davis, David Johnson, and Gary Harrison in editing and publishing Western Literature in a World Context, a two-volume college anthology, in 1995. She also published As Long as the Rivers Flow: Stories of Nine Native Americans, with Paula Gunn Allen in 1996; On the Trail of Older Brother: Glous'gap Stories of the Micmac Indians, with Michael RunningWolf in 2000; and a younger reader's biography, Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets in 2003. Those who have known her deeply- and there are many-have praised Patricia's generosity, her ability to bring out the best in others, and her gift of encouragement. She has started many a young writer or scholar on his or her career. Her advocacy for women scholars, multicultural writers, and especially Native American students has moved the teaching profession powerfully in this region. She has also befriended many people she recognizes as her own kind-waitresses, nurses in hospitals, receptionists, clerks in stores. Arrangements are being made for gifts to be donated to Native American educational funds.

She was a good lady, a wise lady. May she rest in peace.

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