Ariel Dawson, 1959-2013
I recently learned that a friend who was hugely significant in my life once, but with whom I had lost touch for 15 years, no longer walks the same earth that I do; in fact, Ariel Dawson died in 2013, unbeknownst to me.
It is hard to lose friends, but losing the friends of one’s youth–those intense, passionate friendships that teach human beings how to navigate the world of human relationships–that loss cuts in a different way. For Ariel is perhaps the reason I am a writer. No–I would have become a writer. She is the reason I decided it was possible to be a poet. She amazed me with her vocabulary, her insights, her evaluative reading, her positively voracious and precocious reading, her charm, her gentle goofiness, her forthrightness, her neurosis; she seemed to fear nothing (but that wasn’t true); she had published poetry in real journals before she was 17 years old; she read Rilke and Yeats; had affairs with well-known poets; spent years fathoming Jung. In 1994, she wrote an opinion piece for what is now AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle responding indignantly to Dana Gioia’s article “Can Poetry Matter?”–a piece that started quite a dust-up among defenders of what has been termed “new formalism.”
Ariel had always been the sort of person who chose to disappear and then to reappear, to my joy, months or years later to take up the friendship without pause–and often without explanation for her absence. She had her reasons, and I respected that; but I missed her.
In the early 1980s, my (also late) friend David Dunn and I were publishing chapbooks under the small-press name LiMbo bar&grill Books. We approached Ariel for our second-ever chapbook: Poems for the Kazan Astrologer. She was, at the time, teaching creative writing at Old Dominion University. We were very happy with the outcome, but we had no good method of distributing the books. I may still have a box of 25 or so of these books somewhere in my attic.
Then Ariel became more intensely interested in Jungian psychology, though it had long been a passion of hers.
In subsequent years, she wrote less and less poetry and stopped submitting her work for publication. The response to her Writer’s Chronicle opinion was, I think, a bit shocking to her, though I know she stood by her opinion. She just decided, perhaps, that she felt more at home in the world of Jung and his followers.
During the past decade I have often tried tracking her down, imagining the internet would find her. My job at the college has made me a rather adept online researcher, but all that ever showed up was a listing for her psychotherapy practice in New York City. The number was incorrect.
Then, my father became very ill and other issues crowded my mind. Searching for a friend who clearly wanted to remain anonymous in an electronic era was not a priority.
Besides, I always assumed that Ariel would suddenly re-emerge, call me–my phone number remains the same as it was last time I saw her–and mention she was going to be in the area, and could she stop by? That’s how it had been before. And I’d be thrilled to see her, and we’d talk about poetry and art, and politics and pets, cheese, philosophy, psychology, parents, wine…
I assumed incorrectly. That’s what happens with assumptions. Just this past week, when I finally found myself with some spare time, I tried an internet search again. And found her “electronic obit” online, and the fact that she’d died in February of 2013.
I have no words to express how this information feels to me.
Arthur Cadieux, 1943-2015
Arthur Cadieux was my art teacher at Thomas Jefferson College in the late 1970s. He and his wife, Helene, were exceptionally kind to young adults who had an interest in art and in observing the world around them. We had dinner at their house in Michigan and at their loft apartment in New York City. Years later, after Helene’s tragically early death, and after Arthur had moved back to Maine, he let me stay at their cottage on Leighton Point (he lived in a smaller house in town) so that I could have a personal “writing retreat.” He deeply understood the creative person’s need for reflection, evaluation, thought, imagination, boredom, and occasional moments of lively talk. The universe needs people like Arthur Cadieux, talented and generous, who are constantly pushing their own boundaries. Many of us who benefited from his friendship will miss him. Arthur’s paintings can be found at his website, arthurcadieux.org.
May they be free from suffering and causes of suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering.
They both sound like exceptional human beings. Thanks for sharing your remembrance of them.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am so sorry for the loss of your life-long friend. Having several friends of this kind – the kind that come in and out of my life without pause, just picking up the conversation where we left it years ago – I can’t imagine hearing about his/her passing from anyone other than a relative. How dismissive that must have felt. My heart aches for you. It sounds like Ariel was so instrumental in your success as a poet, though I know you would have taken this journey no matter what. But it’s those influencial people in our lives that leave such a mark on our soul. And losing them hurts deeply.
And Arthur passed, as well? I recall how fondly you spoke of him, and how you enjoyed your visit with him in Maine a few years back.
Ann, you are lucky to be rich in close friends, both earthly and heavenly, and they will always be a part of you.
Thanks so much. I hope I can continue to make–and keep–close friends, as the old ones (and neither was so old, really….) depart from me. Friends like you. ❤
I know how you must feel. About this time last year I did an electronic search for my childhood sweetheart and found he had passed away from cancer almost a year before. He was Jude’s age, we went to church together in Merchantville. Give yourself time to heal, it’s a tough one finding out via the internet. I am sorry for you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Too many losses. And it hurts to miss the public moments when one can mourn a loss in company. Sending good wishes.
Thank you for introducing me to Arthur’s art, it is beautiful. Sorry for the loss of such dear friends.
[…] I had better get cracking! Or it could be my response to the losses about which I have recently written, supposing that there is merit to the practice of writing as a way of healing or the writing cure […]
[…] I had a job that paid my rent, barely. I wrote constantly, and David encouraged me to read aloud. Ariel Dawson encouraged me to submit my work to magazines. Ploddingly, and without much confidence, I followed my […]
Hello, Ariel was my teacher at Bowling Green State University, 1979-80. This past Christmas, one of my teenage sons gave me a couple of poetry books as gifts, and it got me to thinking about my teacher from long ago.
I wondered what she was up to. Like you, I did an internet search…and was shocked and saddened to learn that she had passed.
Ariel was indeed wonderful. She loved poetry so much, she cared so much about it. She was a great teacher. Wise and funny and fierce.
A number of years ago, when Ariel was at Old Dominion, I dropped her a note. No big deal, just thanked her for all she did and let her know she made a big, positive impact in this former student’s life. I am so glad I did that.
I appreciated your blog post about Ariel, and was happy to learn that she published Poems for the Kazan Astrologer. She read some of those poems to a group of students and grad assistants at her apartment. It was great. We were drinking wine and talking about literature. I had never seen anyone in my family ever read a book. And here we were, actually discussing poetry. It seemed so badass and cool.
Your blog post mentioned that you have some copies of Ariel’s chapbook. If it is convenient, I would love it if you could send me one. Of course I would be happy to cover any costs. I would really treasure that chapbook.
Teachers. Wow. They make a difference.
LikeLiked by 1 person