GUS BLAISDELL


Charles Augustus Blaisdell II
Writer and Educator

September 21st 1935, San Diego -- September 17th 2003, Albuquerque

(Photo of Gus Blaisdell with Allan Graham by Nicole Blaisdell)

A Celebration of Gus Blaisdell

NEW "What is Dead?" by Nicole Blaisdell Ivey


from Gloria Frym

Here's the Obit from the Albuquerque Journal, Tuesday September 23:

BLAISDELL -- Gus Blaisdell, writer and educator, died in Albuquerque on September 17, 2003, four days before his 68th birthday. Blaisdell created and taught popular courses in cinema studies such as Teen Rebels and Poetry and Radical Film for almost 25 years at The University of New Mexico, where his work helped to establish a program and then a department in media arts. Blaisdell also taught in the Department of Art and Art History, and served at UNM on numerous master's degree and doctoral committees. Previously Blaisdell had taught philosophy and mathematics for six years at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.

Blaisdell's publications were as various as his teaching. His critical essays addressed still photography, motion pictures, painting, and philosophy, among other subjects, and he lectured widely in Europe and the United States. His book with photographer Lewis Baltz entitled Park City was published by Leo Castelli Gallery of New York City in 1981; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art published his monograph on painter Guy Williams the following year. A former student of literary critic Yvor Winters at Stanford University, Blaisdell also composed books of poetry and fiction, including Fractionally Awake Monad, Prose Ocean, and Dented Fenders, all in the 1970s.

Blaisdell savored friendships with internationally renowned figures in the arts and humanities, including Baltz, philosopher Stanley Cavell, the writer Evan Connell, poet Robert Creeley, and art critic Max Kozloff. Along with his teaching and writing, Blaisdell was proprietor for many years of the Living Batch bookstore, founded by Pancho Elliston, where Allen Ginsberg and other poets read and discussed their work amid the Batch's legendary cornucopia of new and used books. Blaisdell also ran Living Batch Press, publisher of handsome, spacious books of poetry and prose by Clark Coolidge, Ronald Johnson, Geoffrey Young and others. As much as anything, Blaisdell relished warm and witty conversation, often conducted in the public sphere. He would meet friends, colleagues, and students in popular Central Avenue restaurants near UNM and Nob Hill to take up sundry topics of the day such as movies and politics. He seemed to value the raw, theatrical space of the boulevard as much as he did the classroom, though privacy and quiet were also essential to him. Born in San Diego, he became an unusually visible, vital presence in Albuquerque, the city he adopted in 1964 and came to love and serve. He died of a sudden heart attack on Central Avenue. Gus Blaisdell is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Blaisdell; his children, Shawn, Luc and Casey Blaisdell of Albuquerque; Nicole Blaisdell-Ivey of Bozeman, Montana; their mother, Sally Blaisdell; and his stepdaughter, Alexandra Freedman-Smith. A memorial service will be held at the UNM Alumni Chapel on Tuesday, September 23, at 5:30 p.m. Donations in Blaisdell's memory can be made to the UNM Department of Media Arts to establish the Gus Blaisdell Scholarship in Critical Writing.


from Geoffrey Young

The service was weepy and real, good speakers, mix of recorded music, packed chapel on campus, people spilling outside who couldn't fit in, and at the end, after Elizabeth invited everyone to the house (her district attorney's office had supplied her with huge quantities of catered food), the final taped music played, Sympathy for the Devil, which Gus used to love to death around 1970.....

Saw lots of old friends. Was photographed by Janet Maher at the exact spot in the alley where Gus went down (there was dirt on the spot, and a few fronds of something.... he'd been given a tracheotomy, in the effort to get air into his lungs, and some blood had spilled, which required the dirt, and therefore identified the spot... his son Luc took me there). A doctor told his children that some heart attacks of the right side kind have been known to occlude the windpipe, and so no CPR air administered by a woman who was nearby when he went down ever reached his lungs.

Jack Shoemaker may do some memorial book with samples of Gus' writings, and lots by others. Could be a fit conclusion, he was so much a man of the book.


from Janet Maher

Returned yesterday from three emotionally complex days in New Mexico which were centered around the sudden death of my first husband, Gus Blaisdell. There is a far-reaching vacuum that permeates Albuquerque from his passing.

Gus was a force of nature. It is fitting that the news arrived in the midst of the hurricane that shut down Baltimore on Thursday. In the blustering wind outside our back door, I feel as if he simultaneously said goodbye and attempted to comfort me by drifting a leaf into my palm that rainy afternoon. The Dali Lama was out and about during the week before and on what would have been Gus' birthday Sunday. That, too, was fitting.

(Almost) Eighteen years older than me, it is too simple to say that I learned much from him. My own insecurites made me leave, but we remained lightly in touch through the years -- not enough, I realize now. He and Manny became unlikely friends after I moved to Baltimore. Manny told me that when they'd run into each other Gus would ask, "So, how's our girl?," and they'd compare notes, keeping each other up to date. I wish I could have seen him more recently, that Paul and he could have met. I wish a lot now. Wish I'd kept things I've thrown away, kept pictures I sent back to him, wish I had asked more questions, printed out his emails, had more time to talk in the present...

It was a great gift, nonetheless, to have been a small part of the adventure of his life. Gus was friends with people like Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Robert Creeley, Evan Connell, so many (we were married by Beat poet-turned-Zen-priest Philip Whalen). As I told his son, Luc, while we sat in the dark in my former garden after the memorial service: that he was so special and he chose us, nurtured us, tormented us, brought us into him, we, by default must be somewhat special too. That he was taken so abruptly when so many of us assumed we could wrap things up more is too shocking, but that in itself is a message to us about our presents and futures -- that we have to do the things, say the things that his death is reminding us to address.

Reconnecting with Gus' kids and their mother and the friends of his whom I had not seen in fifteen or more years was wonderful. It's disconcerting how natural it was to slip back into our times together as if all these (so radically different) years hadn't intervened. There are too many details to begin to explain in this note -- just imagine about one month's worth of intense communication with a body of specific people condensed into three days in a place which makes one weep simply upon view from an airplane (I am not the only one)...

The memorial service was perfect. Again, too much to explain, but it ended with a tripych of music -- Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and the Stones. "Sympathy for the Devil" was Gus' anthem, which gives you a hint about the unique character we celebrated, complained, and cried about. Gus is still hovering around, I feel, making sure that everybody's ok before he completes his trip. There are a lot of people that need to come to grips with how deep an impression he left on us (and for some, how gaping the wounds still are). As a group of us sat in the dark reminiscing after the memorial, I replied to a question that Gus helped me become who I was supposed to be. I was too young, though, at the time we were together, too inexperienced to hold my own well or grasp fully what he was trying to offer me.

Gus was a grit that kept us irritated and challenged us as much as we could tolerate or would allow. Some of us knew his gentleness too, and the loyalty of his love. All of us are thankful that if it was his time, at least he got taken quickly, did not have to suffer a long and painful disease. He was happy, fulfilled, still at the top of his game, still brimming with energy and ideas, still vital and strong. Our sadness is selfish, of course, and mine is (perhaps) particularly inappropriate, being as I am in the relationship of my life -- the epitomy of any and all that have come before. Still, there is a hole left, even in me. I'm not entirely back yet, even though, from Baltimore, Albuquerque seems again to be a dream.

From the Albuquerque Journal.
(correction: The Batch closed in '99, not '95)

A poem by Mark Ivey Fruit of the Loquat Tree and
a picture of Gus' Study Windowshelf to go with it.


from Chandos Michael Brown

Tom,

Though I was enormously saddened to come across it, I want to thank you for the remembrance of Gus
posted on your site. I knew Gus very well during most of the 70s, when I attended UNM
(and camped out with him in the Frontier Restaurant), and for many years afterward
regularly visited with him when my ex-wife and I returned to Albuquerque to see her family.
He was a force in nature, and my world is depleted by this knowledge of his loss.
Again, thanks.

Most cordially,

Chandos Michael Brown


from Joy Harjo (via Nicole Blaisdell)

It doesn't surprise me that Gus Blaisdell's heart led him out of this world. Or that he left so quickly. He had no patience with fogginess of heart or thinking. He wasn't one to linger needlessly in any matter. And those who knew him saw his heart as a shining road, and it linked exactly with his keen mind. Simon and I stopped by the Living Batch once on our way home, a few weeks after Rainy was born. Simon, the proud father presented the covered baby to Gus. "Isn't she beautiful?" Gus warned with something like: "every parent thinks their kid is beautiful, but I've yet to see one at this age, when they look more like naked mice." Then he uncovered her, and gave his blessing, "You're right," he said. "She is beautiful." Those aren't the most profound words, nor is it the most profound memory. We come to know people more through their spirit than their words, though words are conveyed by the spirit. And small moments with each other are what build the world. And then, as now, I look forward to our next meeting of the heart.


from Simon Ortiz (via Joy Harjo and Nicole Blaisdell)

Dear Joy, Thank you for getting in touch with me about Gus Blaisdell. Oh my! Not long after James Welch too. You know, Gus was the person who told me first about Jim Welch back in 1967, maybe even 1966. Did I ever tell you? I was gathering poetry for that Native poetry anthology I was doing then which would have been a real first if it'd gotten published. Gus and I were talking like usual, probably at Okie Joe's along with the usual others, and I was telling him about the anthology I was putting together. He said I ought to includ James Welch. Who's he I asked Gus, and he told me Jim was a poet from Montana who Richard Hugo had taken under his wing as a student. He gave me Jim's address in fact and I got in touch with him. And Jim sent me Riding the Earthboy 40 in typed manuscript. Beautiful, beautiful poetry, heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Yeah, Gus was something else alright, a good friend and brother mostly; he was always a fan and supporter of my work which goes back to when he was the editor of UNM Quarterly back when. Gosh, when was that? Mid-60's until 1968 I think. He was the one who got me in touch with Fran McCullough(Gus had been in the Wallace Stegner Writing Workshop at Stanford with her, Scott Momaday, Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey, Thomas McGuane, Ernest Gaines, and others) an editor at Harper and Row that resulted in Harper taking a look at my gigantic poetry manuscript which became Going for the Rain. I'll always remember Gus Blaisdell as "my Cajun buddy from Louisiana." Yeah, I'll even remember the countless beer drinking days/times at Okies when I was supposed to be in class! Thanks for letting me know about the passing on of a friend and brother.


from Gloria Graham, a photo from the Gus Blaisdell Celebration



from Nicole Blaisdell

Gus and Robert Creeley in Albuquerque




from Nicole Blaisdell

REMEMBERING DAD


Go see a great film.

Walk out of a bad one cussing semi audibly.

Get your money back or sneak into several more films until you find at least one moment of brilliance.

Write about it.

Rave about it to others making the telling better than the original(embellish where necessary).

Go to lunch with a different person each day for a week.Be kind to all wait staff unless they're fucking idiots or slow.

Listen.

Expand someone's thinking...

then lecture, entertain and leave abruptly. Leave them always wanting more.

Believe in your ideas and fuck'em if they can't take a joke.

Be true to yourself.

Love deeply but quietly.

Champion who and what you believe in.

Embrace your life and do not be afraid.

Pet the Cats.

Appreciate art, people, ideas and books and books and books.

And some bad TV and really,really bad jokes.

Question everything.

Accept "His Total Heaviness" and brilliance.

love, love, love

Nicole


from Tom Raworth

As a curiosity, here's a picture of the spot where the Blaisdell family arrived in the USA



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