REED HOME Book icon
LETTERS
reed magazine logoJune 2010

Letters to Reed

Reed welcomes letters. The sender must be identified, and letters may be edited. Send them to reed.magazine@reed.edu, or Reed Magazine, Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland OR 97202-8199.



Ottomar’s Odyssey

I read with interest the article on Professor Ottomar Rudolf and the subsequent letters. I have two comments. First, Ottomar is quoted as saying he knew nothing of the mass murders. I cannot believe this. My mother, born in 1929, was also in the Hitler Youth. She told me of a song she had been taught with a line in it that translates as “The Jews are shot.” She admitted that she did have knowledge of the mass murders.

Secondly, Paul Bigman ’71 states, “There is, simply put, no imaginable justification for participation in the Nazi cause.” My mother’s participation may not be justifiable, but it may be understandable. In 1932, my mother’s family were ethnic Germans living in the village of Kolb in what was the Autonomous Volga German Soviet Socialist Republic. Local officials came and removed every bit of food from the family’s home, including seed for the next planting. Food confiscation was not limited to Volga Germans. It was carried out in massive regions of the Soviet Union and is believed to be responsible for the starvation of two million Soviet people. In 1933, when my grandmother spoke out against collectivism, the entire family of six was put into a labor camp in what is today Belarus. My mother began work in a brickyard at the age of eight. As war between Germany and the Soviet Union became likely, ethnic Germans were taken from the camp and submitted to electrical shock torture to induce confessions of espionage. My mother’s father would not confess and was released. Others disappeared. Medical supplies were short. My mother’s elder brother died of surgical poisoning.

When German forces entered Belarus, my mother and others saw them as liberators. Many rural areas of the Soviet Union did not have electricity or radio. Knowing little about Hitler and fascism, a significant number of people of varying ethnicities of the Soviet Union aided the German forces, believing that collectivism would end and their lands would be returned. Also, memories of induced mass starvation remained. My mother remained in the occupied area and worked as an interpreter/babysitter at a vodka plant that supplied fuel to the German military. Perhaps participation of these people and my mother in the Nazi cause is not justifiable. Is it not understandable?

—Joe Ried ’74
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The article on Ottomar Rudolf was fascinating, revealing a past that I never knew about my student advisor. What a life! Idealism, warfare, devastation, passion, culture, irony, drive. I had to smile when I read Mr. Bigman’s thinly veiled critique of what Mr. Rudolf should have done while living under the Nazi regime; I guess the arrogance of youth doesn’t always fade with age. Mr. Bigman makes the intellectual and anachronistic mistake of projecting his own values and past onto another culture, time, and place, in order to make a rather self-righteous judgment. Mr. Rudolf was dealt a certain “hand” being born in Germany in the 1920s; he did not have the luxury of looking to the 1960s American counterculture to show him the way of protesting the war.

Before you criticize another’s life, walk a mile in his boots. But I don’t think Mr. Rudolf needs my help in defense; an ex–tank gunner from the German army on the eastern front has the cojones to do that quite splendidly. Witness the life lived

—Stuart Byles ’75
La Crescenta, California

Channelling Sappho

periodic table

Some readers took umbrage at our profile of poet Mary Barnard ’32.

Given her important contribution to American literature, it was only appropriate that several pages were recently devoted to Mary Barnard ’32 to mark her centenary. (“Channeling Sappho,” Autumn 2009). However, Barnard’s true literary context was somewhat missed in this article. Some inaccuracies persist: Barnard moved to New York in 1936, not 1935; her meeting with Williams was on a strictly literary basis; she turned away from Eliotic impersonality, not towards it; and Pound did not “hatch” modernism all on his own. The extended focus on Sappho as a “sultry beauty”/“a feminist voice”/leader of a lesbian cult plays up cultural stereotypes misplaced in any discussion of a translation concerned with the plain-speaking verbal grit of Sappho’s fragments, not with “gossip” and other “material irrelevant to the reading and enjoyment of the poems,” as Barnard explains in her translator’s footnote. More interesting things can be said about why Sappho appealed to the modernists as an exemplar of a “new” idiom, as well as to American poets. These are the traditions deserving of more critical attention in this instance than lesbian/feminism movements with which Barnard did not associate.

Nor is it fair to say that she was “star-struck” by the Imagist movement. On the contrary, what Barnard says about her discovery of “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste” is measured and insightful: “It seemed to me the only really worthwhile piece of poetry criticism I had ever read—worthwhile for the maker, that is, as opposed to the consumer” (Assault on Mount Helicon, 52). Barnard had formulated similar ideas in the preface to her senior thesis, “Creed”, which predated her reading of Pound’s manifesto. Imagism fitted with her matured way of thinking; she did not try to emulate it out of youthful sentiment and nostalgia.

That Barnard “produced only about 150 poems, all told” gives a false picture of her output. Barnard published a range of works, which won important awards (Poetry’s Levinson Award in 1935, the Elliston Award for Collected Poems, the Western States Book Award for Time and the White Tigress) and broke new ground, such as The Mythmakers; and she worked successfully in genres other than poetry. Yet doubt is cast on her ability: “One has to wonder: How did such a cool character ever pull off a translation of Sappho that was so white-hot, so on-the-money? Likely, no one will ever know.” As I told the author in conversation, I don’t think that any writer who knew Barnard was at all surprised at her Sappho, least not Williams, who wrote a fragment joining Barnard to Sappho as early as 1940, or Pound and Moore, whose letters demonstrate nothing but respect for her writing long before she attempted her translation.

Given that the 2011 alumni college will feature a session on Mary Barnard to explore her achievement in full, which I am co-organising, such debates are timely. While I was disappointed with this article, the intellectual rigour of alumni discussions will surely restore Barnard’s many distinctions to the centre of the page.

—Sarah Barnsley ’95
London, England

Mary Barnard ’32, author of Sappho: A New Translation, distinguished alumna of Reed, and generous donor of humanities scholarships to Reed students, is rightly recognized in an article in Reed honoring the centenary of her birth. What she does not deserve is an article that presents inaccurate facts about her life and poetry, refers to her in personally demeaning terms, and speculates about her sexual orientation simply because she provided us with the definitive translation of Sappho’s poems.

Barnard’s interest in Sappho was not gender-based, but primarily poetic. Furthermore, her interest had to do mainly with meter, in contrast to the title of the piece, which emphasizes the “prison of rhymes.” Following Pound’s advice, she became seriously interested in Greek metrics in order to find an alternative to the commonplace iambic pentameter that she felt did not reflect American speech patterns. Because Greek is a quantitative language, measuring the length of vowel sounds, the distinctive stanza form named after Sappho is written in a quantitative meter. In adapting this meter to English, which is based on stress rather than quantity, Mary found “the sound of a speaking voice making a simple, yet emotionally loaded statement” (Assault on Mt. Helicon, 282).

The idea that Mary Barnard translated Sappho because she identified with Sappho as a “friend” who “shared much with the odd bird [Barnard]” is a fictional statement expressed in pejorative terms. Conflating Barnard and Sappho in “modern guises (Super Dyke, Porn Queen)” is irrelevant and disrespectful.

Similarly, Mary Barnard’s relationship to Pound is distorted in the article. Her native wit came through in their correspondence, but she did not “play” earnest student to him, nor “sass” him. She was too straightforward for that. Her respect for him was immeasurable, and her correspondence with him drew forth some of his most seminal ideas.

Characterizing Mary’s life as “solitary, and small” is disparaging and just plain untrue. Her voluminous correspondence, which has been preserved at Yale’s Beineke Library, proves her friendships included not only Reedies, but literary figures she met in New York, like Moore and Williams, and as Poetry Curator for the Lockwood Library in Buffalo. When Barnard returned to Vancouver, her life was not one of “drab misery.” In fact, she wrote seven books after her Sappho was published, two of which garnered distinguished awards. These accomplishments, or the trips to New York to do research, or the many extended trips to Europe with friends are not mentioned.

Finally, what is most disturbing about the article is the self-admitted dismissal of accurate facts and its assertion that somehow Mary Barnard’s Sappho translation was an unexplainable, chance act of imagination by this “odd bird laid low.” But it is so much more than that: it is a product of her diligent study of the classics, a meaningful dialogue with an accomplished mentor, lots of hard work, and her God-given talent. Mary Barnard deserves a more scholarly examination of the clear, precise writing she left us and more respect for the brilliant, generous person she was.

—Elizabeth Bell MALS ’87
Literary Executor for Mary Barnard
Vancouver, Washington

Editor’s Note: I confess my surprise that these two eminent correspondents, both so familiar with Mary’s work, should dislike this piece. Author Bill Donahue included the exotic portrayals of Sappho precisely to demonstrate that, right or wrong, she has become for many a symbol of lesbian love. He then proceeded to explore the life of the poet who brought Sappho back into the public eye. Surely it is reasonable to wonder, as Donahue did, whether Mary’s own sexuality played a role in her work, and to conclude, as he did, that we have too little evidence to know. Personally, I believe the piece celebrated Mary’s remarkable achievements without descending into fulsome sentimentality. Readers can find longer versions of these letters posted on our website.

You have not heard from me for a long time. I earned a master’s degree in 1989, comparing translations of Sappho, which took the long route of Greek, Latin, German, British (male) English, and, at last, Miss Mary Barnard.

My newest personal joke is “I earned a Greek college degree in Mother’s womb.” Actually, it’s true. Mother attended public school in Haverhill, Massachusetts, but preferred to speak and sing her Greek. Indeed I remember everything. I attended a private Greek school there (John Greenleaf Whittier). I expect to be 91 on 3rd May, and enjoy good health—tons of discipline. Recently, nieces half my age have “given me cardiac arrest”—brain surgery, spine surgery.

Miss Mary phoned often. We talked and laughed a lot.

Lots of agape.

—Angela Christy
Boston, Massachusetts

Standing Up for ’75

I read the note begging for information from the class of ’75, and I stand up to tell you about myself. I had a private practice in Portland for 25 years. One day (actually, the anniversary of the week I started practice) I got this letter—flaming pink paper and the question: “Want to be a psychiatrist in Germany?” The same week, I got a fortune cookie that read: Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God. Well, why not?

So I am in Germany now. I am the mild traumatic brain injury psychiatrist in Schweinfurt, Germany, for the U.S. Army. I have written several books (see Reediana). I wrote some articles and I was a keynote speaker at the International Telemedicine Conference in London in 2003.

I’m single, have no cats (I’m allergic), and spend my free time—what there is of it—traveling in Europe. It has been some wild ride these past few years! What can I say? I had some mild amusement dealing with this book in my vitae on the witness stand as a forensic psychiatrist. You can, perhaps, imagine the glee of the prosecuting attorney coming across this little gem. Like I said, a wild ride. But it does keep me interested in life around me, and in my own life. After many years of seeing psychiatric patients, I must say that people are far more different from each other than snowflakes. Snowflakes may be unique, but they are seriously less interesting than my fellow humans.

I worked at the Quest when I was at Reed, and I “covered” the protests against the Vietnam war. I believe that Nixon was hung in effigy (we obviously couldn’t hang him in person . . .) and Eliot Hall was occupied by student protesters for several days. Now I work with the soldiers in a war, which is probably just as unpopular (my own opinion must wait until I do not work for the U.S. Army), but the soldiers are my patients. I care about them deeply and worry every day about what I read in the Stars and Stripes. Did I ever care about the Stars and Stripes before? No. Life gives us weird twists of fate.

Closing my private practice was heartbreaking. I had seen some of these people from the time their children were born to the time their grandchildren were born. Some of my patients grew up with me—we spent 25 years together, one way or another. Some of my patients were new and even then, surprisingly painful for both of us to part.

It’s snowing here today, like it is in Portland (according to the internet). I go to work at 7:30 a.m. well before the sun comes up. It’s like living in Alaska where I grew up. I find myself musing on wheels and the turns that bring us always back to some starting place.

And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It wasn’t me, everyone has a double and I was in Philadelphia at the time.
God bless us every one.
Merry Christmas,

—Esther Gwinnell ’75
Schweinfurt, Germany

Editor’s Note: Thank you, Esther! See Reediana for more about Esther’s books.

Defending The Citadel

It has been interesting to read letters from Karen Smith and Jeffrey Kovac regarding the Black Studies crisis in the late 60s. I went to UCSB (my daughter goes to Reed) about the same time, and recall the Black Student Union takeover of one of our buildings. I speculate if this movement began the growth of new departments, which has left colleges and universities today with a substantial burden of not only greater overhead but perhaps inflated status: e.g., a history department can adapt to changes in academic interests; a Black History department has to sustain itself if it were to fall out of fashion.

—Glenn Umont
Knoxville, Tennessee

Another Roger Sup-Porter

While I’ve been following the “defending the citadel” disagreement since it started, I’ve refrained from commenting. It has seemed like crying over spilled milk. However, I’ve read one too many oblique references to Roger Porter to continue sitting this out.

Roger Porter is the only reason I graduated from Reed, rather than leaving my senior year to finish elsewhere. He was concerned enough about seeing me leave with a Reed degree that he combined being thesis adviser with offering me a challenging and motivating course of independent study—which was unusual because I was not majoring in literature. He just happened to be the most qualified faculty member in my area. He was also the best professor I ever had, undergraduate or graduate. When I later taught graduate school, Roger was my teaching model.

Was he a “young Turk,” some folks having twisted that into a pejorative term? Yes. Did Reed need young Turks at the time? More than it had, many more. The “Old Guard” stood on ceremony. Roger stood for fairness and for student development. Reed badly needed people like Roger to open wide the windows of the faculty lounge to let in some fresh air.

—Dick Lee ’68
St. Paul, Minnesota

Remembering Dick Jones

Few college alumni mags could match the passionate and diverse views articulated by Reed graduates over “Defending the Citadel.” One of Reed’s strengths would seem to be the different ways in which students experience the college, depending in large measure upon their field of study and the profs with whom they bond, or don’t.

Not having experienced myself the 1960s “Citadel” adventure, this older alum initially had no inclination to comment, until the debate widened in subsequent issues of Reed to encompass broader observations about key College figures, particularly prof Richard Jones. I now feel compelled to register a view from the ’50s.

As a Reedie who values highly his college years, I consider Dick Jones to have been the preëminent player in that experience. In his conference sessions, Dick evinced an elevated respect for every student’s opinion together with the expectation that all participants would arrive at class prepared to engage in professional-level discourse. The reading list for English history was endless and included texts usually considered beyond undergraduates’ capability, as I later discovered in graduate school. As regards level, intensity, and stimulation, Jones’ courses dwarfed my others, as good as some of them were. I consider the intellectual rigor of those meetings and the work that went into preparing for them to have built my personal confidence and laid the foundation for a professional career.

The distinctive feature of the true liberal arts college, exemplified by only a few institutions among which Reed has stood preëminent, seems to be a learning culture centered upon the undergraduate student. It presupposes a faculty dedicated above all to teaching, skilled in awakening the latent talents of postadolescents, and unencumbered by the “publish or perish” dictum that reigns at so many universities. In my opinion, Dick Jones most successfully exemplified that learning culture at Reed.

As noted above, I cannot speak to Jones’ role in the ’60s controversy. I do know that he was one of the most ardent champions of Stanley Moore following the latter’s betrayal by the Trustees in the 1950s (later reversed, to their credit). However, as so well stated by Gerson Robboy (“Cultural Shift and the Old Guard,” Reed, Summer 2009), different eras present different contexts and the issues often shift. The purpose of this letter is simply to record one alum’s gratitude to Reed for the opportunity to study under so outstanding an educator as Dick Jones.

—Bill McGrew ’56
Thessaloniki, Greece

I see there has been some controversy in Reed about Richard H. Jones. I never knew anything about his politics, academic or otherwise. But, I do know and remember this. I took his English history course at Reed in 1971. I’ve taken a lot of other history courses at all levels from grade school to grad school, and I am a history professor myself. Dick Jones, more than anyone else, inspired me to go on and become a historian, which is why I dedicated my dissertation monograph to him along with my two graduate advisers at Wisconsin. Dick Jones was the best teacher I ever saw.

—Dan Feller ’72
Knoxville, Tennessee

Owlish Impostor?

The “furry-feathery creature” posing with Microsoft Reedies on page 31 of the March 2010 magazine is a feckless imposter! I am enclosing some pictures (dark, dank, undisclosed location) from 1959 for comparison. I and my fellow mates from Quincy Dorm captured the Doyle Owl in 1958 during a showing that year. We retained it for over a year, showing it ourselves three times. One of our most successful showings was in the old commons while everyone was at dinner. We blocked the doors and showed it at a window. Of course numerous hopefuls bailed out of other windows and a merrye chayse was had by all. We had planned the showing to a fare-thee-well, blocking all roads in and out with vehicles, and creating raucous diversions. A postwar, multigear, go-anywhere, weapons-carrier vehicle, belonging to Bill Brack ’62, assured that no that one could follow us through the Elysian, but roadless, fields on the other side of campus.

—Donald L. Pavia ’62
Bellingham, Washington

Why I Give To Reed

I give because I am grateful for the education Reed offered me in intellectual discipline and in social life, quite different from my small town in Virginia. Courses and conversations at Reed revealed worlds unknown to me. I devoured Humanities 110 readings and lectures. I could not take notes fast enough in engineering block capitals and had to learn italic handwriting. My conference-mates Joe Alex ’70, Greg Lee ’70, Jeff Nakamura ’70, and Pat Honchar ’70 nearly always had something worthwhile to say. First Hum papers were marked by all-night group brainstorming in cross-canyon dorms, frenzied writing and typing, and a mad dash to turn in papers at Eliot Hall by noon, Saturday, before Professor Richard Tron sealed the envelopes.

John Tomsich’s American Intellectual History, an autobiographical subject for Reedies, was the only history class I took. For the first hour, Professor Tomsich sat silent as the Doyle Owl. Occasionally he smiled while watching the hesitant and floundering student-led discussion. After a brief break, he revealed all about the readings in brilliant summations and deeper insights. Gradually we learned how to do it ourselves—which was of course his plan.

Learning took place informally, too. Reedies were activists and pranksters—intense, intelligent, and immature. We held a public burning of the MLA style sheet, and we fought slingshot-pitched water-balloon battles. Alan Walworth ’72 and I hitchhiked to San Francisco in 15 hours, starting at midnight during reading week. Wayne Grytting ’70, Seattle fisherman, went off to feed the fish at Marineland of the Pacific. We organized serious counter-classes, made pamphlets and single-issue newspapers, wall posters, and radio programs. One roommate’s hobby was knife-throwing; others knew about brewing, jazz, palmistry, Quakerism, Zen Buddhism, and women. Strong Reed women seemed to know more than the men, certainly more than I did. Taz Wilson ’70, Sandy Osborne ’70, Holly Hart ’70, Linda Howard ’70, Shirley Mayer ’70, Callie Wilson ’72, and Deborah Bigelow ’73 made lasting impressions on me, though I haven’t seen them for decades. Lois Drew ’72, one of five women in Physics/Chemistry 120, once relieved the hard grind by announcing: “We cannot have a test on Friday because it’s Halloween!” Professor William Parker ’36 agreed.

At Reed in the 1960s, politics and personalities generally coexisted. Opposition to the Vietnam War was nearly universal on campus. I marched in demonstrations, signed petitions, and served on the bail bond crew. In 1968, Professor John Pock and I watched the disgusting tele-spectacle of the Democratic and Republican conventions, cynicism carried to new lows. When the candidates campaigned in Portland, unapologetic liberal Hubert Humphrey argued with anti-war protesters. By contrast, Spiro Agnew was glad “the delegation from Hanoi” left his rally, so that he could deliver his “real speech,” a ghastly vision of a totalitarian American future. The two Reed Republicans who attended were horrified.

The first Reed radical I met was Jonathan Moscow ’69. We made grilled cheese and ketchup sandwiches at his off-campus house, and we talked about politics long afterwards. Lance Montauk ’71, guerilla-theatre star of draft resistance, gave me an unforgettable lesson in teaching at Beaverton High School China Day. Jeff Kovac ’70 and I were droning about American foreign policy when Lance made his entrance in a red velvet suit, red cowboy hat, red boots, and dark sunglasses. There was a chorus of wolf-whistles and cheers. Lance slipped us a note, “The greatest sin is to be boring.” Then he seized students’ attention by talking about the poetry of Mao Tse-tung. “Cool!”

Ralph Stavins’ political science classes were definitely not boring. We explored the internal logic and working of terror by analyzing imperialism, fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism. Mr. Stavins held office hours and classes at night, and allowed students to call him by his first name. He was a tough-talking, chain-smoking lawyer, University of Chicago PhD, and student of Hannah Arendt, herself student and lover of Martin Heidegger. Stavins inspired me to major in political science (which I did), and advised me to take three years of Greek (which, alas, I did not).

My all-time favorite politics course was State and Local Government. Professor Richard Frost invited politicians, policy makers, academics, and even prisoners from Oregon State Penitentiary to his house to meet five students (Gray Pedersen ’68, Pat Mapps ’70, Pam McFarlane Rosenberg ’69, Jim Joseph ’69, and me), once a week, 8:30 p.m.–midnight, or whenever the booze ran out. What we learned about the real world in that class was amazing.

Coach Jerry Barta also offered worldly wisdom in golf class: “Boys, this is the most important course you will take in college!” If we had only listened to him, cut our hair, and become bankers and big-business types, he would have been right. For many of us Coach Barta was a father figure, not always in touch with the times. I worked for him as a lifeguard and was at the pool when coach discovered the nude swim-in. Outraged, he shouted to one hairy male student: “Aren’t you ashamed, exposing yourself to women like this?” Hairy male: “No, Coach, they’ve already seen everything I have!”

During the troubles of 1968, Jonathan Moscow, Stuart Demmy ’69, and I went to downtown Portland for Rhodes Scholarship interviews. None of us got the scholarship, probably because we all disagreed with the committee. Professor Maure Goldschmidt, who taught classes at home during the crisis, was unable to attend and explain the radicalism of Reed students. To console us, Price Zimmermann revealed that “those committees are suckers for oriental faces.” I had worked for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office and resolved to go to law school. It was “something to fall back on,” as my Chinese mother said. But my plans changed at the last minute. Diskin Clay ’60, John Tomsich, and Mary Catherine Pedersen [assistant professor of political science 1968–71]recommended me for a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to sink-or-swim in the shark-infested waters of Johns Hopkins. I studied European history and enjoyed an academic career.

This year I am giving to Reed in memory of four classmates: Joseph Alex ’70, Martha Downs ’70, Jeff Nakamura, and Anne Tazewell Wilson. I wish they were still with us to celebrate our 40th reunion. I am confident that Reed will spend the money wisely, despite the turbulence of the 1960s, a rose-colored history that needs rewriting, and all too much time spent on politics and self-contemplation. According to roommate James Wheeler ’70, “Reed College is a good place to get an education, and a great place to grow up.” Final comment by roommate Joel Greenberg ’70: “Mooooh?”

—Maarten Ultee ’70
Palo Alto, California
multee@simplecom.net

Keep It Up

Congratulations on putting out a splendid Reed (March 2010). It had a number of outstanding articles, among them Ted Katauskas’ “On the Ledge.” You were right to include so many letters from alums, too. What a contentious bunch! Keep up the good work.

—R.E. Myers MAT ’60
Healdsburg, California

reed magazine logoJune 2010