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What follows is a report from John Paul Moore on the Huff's Corner Dedication in Austin, Texas, which took place last month. My thanks to him, and all the Austin folks, for sending along all the details and allowing me to share them on the web with the folks who love Huff and his work.
Cheers, John, and all.
Honoring and sustaining community at Huff's Corner Dedication
Under clear blue skies of a particularly lovely Saturday morning May 4, more than 50 of Albert Huffstickler's friends, neighbors, readers, admirers and fellow poets dedicated Huffstickler Green to the memory of the late Bard of Hyde Park at 38th and Duval.
Huffstickler (December 17, 1927 – February 25, 2002) or Huff, as he was known to his many friends, was a two-time winner of the Austin Book Award who crafted his poems and drawings and smoked and talked and drank coffee in Hyde Park for most of the last decades of his life. (See Pecan Press, May 2013.) The dedication was the kind of low-key, human-scale event his friends agreed Huff would have wanted.
HPNA Co-President Ashley Schweickart presided over the formal ceremony, retelling the story of the creation of Huff's special corner and attempting to mention each of the scores of people who were part of the effort in all three neighborhoods which converge here--Hancock, Hyde Park and North University--and beyond.
Ashley also announced and expressed the neighbors' gratitude for the essential cooperation of adjoining property owner David Triche, and the added generosity of Michael Biechlin, who contributed not only the landscape design for the Green, but has volunteered that his company, Groundsmasters, will maintain the green for the crucial first six months of the new plantings.
She then recognized the HPNA members who organized the dedication: Chair Kathy Lawrence, Mark Fishman, and John Paul Moore, who read a Proclamation sponsored by Councilperson Kathie Tovo and signed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell officially designating May 4, 2013 as Huffstickler Green Dedication Day in Austin.
The resolution reads, in part "This green space was created through a cooperative effort of Hyde Park, Hancock and North University Neighborhood Associations, Austin Energy, the City's Public Works Department, Austin Parks Foundation, Austin Poetry Society and the Lilliput Review…"
Ashley then turned the podium over to Elzy Cogswell, president of the Austin Poetry Society, for the part Huff would have liked best: The reading of poetry, both Huff's and those he inspired, and the telling of stories about this kind, gentle, honest man.
Elzy began by reading an email from Don Wentworth, editor of the Lilliput Review, a poetry journal that published many Huffstickler poems since its founding 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Wentworth has been promoting a Huff memorial to the readers of the Review and his blog for a number of years.
"As you all know, whether with words or his simple presence,the most important thing he accomplished is Huff touched the hearts of those he met and those who read his work very deeply, indeed" Wentworth wrote, adding, "Lilliput Review has had quite a few accomplishments over the years. Being listed on this proclamation I will always cherish as the greatest."
Claire Rivers, a student at Hyde Park's Griffin School, read from Huff's work, followed by a procession of speakers sharing their verses and memories, including David Jewell, Valerie Inman, Sylvia Manning, Joe Hoppe, Lou Faiel-Dattilo, Thom O Austin, Dennis Cole, Ron Hartman, Greg Gauntner, Grant Thomas, Ralph Hausser, Wade Martin and Ken Martin.
As the verse and stories unfolded, many of them intensely personal and revelatory of the kind of man Huff was, one neighbor, moved by the words, turned to another and said, "This is what these old neighborhoods are for: telling stories, keeping history alive, providing community."
At the HPNA general May membership meeting, Hyde Park Mayor for Life Dorothy Richter asked to be recognized to praise the dedication and Huff's Corner. On his own initiative, Oliver Franklin, the new curator of the Elisabet Ney Museum, proposed the creation of a regular Huffstickler event at the Museum, due to be re-opened after renovations June 1.
The basket passed at the dedication yielded several hundred dollars in contributions and pledges to go toward a permanent installation honoring Huff at the Green, and at least one more suggestion for what words might be appropriate, from the collection of Huff's poems distributed as keepsakes of the ceremony, was this:
I didn't ask
to be a poet.
They were having
a yard sale in Heaven
and it was
the only thing
I could afford.
Mary Ingle, the North University neighborhood leader who played a pivotal role in creation of the green, has agreed to keep working with her Hyde Park and Hancock neighbors on continuing improvement and maintenance of the Green. Stay tuned. And Long Live Huff.
John Paul Moore
Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim
She had a brother who died of cancer"We never touched in our family.I keep thinking about it.I never touched him before he died."Her eyes distantas though she stood now on the brink of live,leaned forward, arms outstretched ...This is not a poem.It's something elseless conclusive, more final:a single butterfly wing,intact, perfect,dropped by the windon the summer grass.Albert Huffstickler
Photo by Jenny Downing
just one blade
of thick summer grass
translated by David G. Lanoue
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