Stacy Doris : A Little Memoir by Ann Lauterbach

I met Stacy in the mid-1980s, when I taught for a semester at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was my student, as was her future husband, Chet Weiner. The three of us formed a kind of molecule, moving across the snowy Iowa City landscape and into the spring. My sister Jennifer had died the year before, and I was still shaken; their company felt like a kind of blessing.

Stacy was smart, curious, and had a knack for appreciation and effortless kindness; she was beautiful, with an uncanny voice, subtly muted and musical; her intensity created an aura of exotic mystery. Her poems were all phenomenology and oblique shift. She seemed to want to write the wind. We watched Breathless. We were in thrall to the poems of Michael Palmer. From Connecticut, but already traveled, already on a quest, she seemed to be in the process of self-invention. This took will, and wit, and love, and a kind of radical intransigence, all of which she had in quantity. And something else was already in place; an essential joyful appetite, free from acquisitiveness. Objects did not move her; they got in the way of her senses. Her fine intelligence was deeply embedded in a creaturely connection to the natural world; taste, touch, sight.

Once, in New York, she showed me how to eat sushi: with your fingers.   

They moved to New York where Chet got his PhD in French Studies at Columbia; they went to France, where they became part of a lively group of French poets; Stacy translated; she edited a journal of younger French poets called Violence of the White Page.

Wherever they went, they swam, for miles and miles. They added Morocco and Greece and Sand Lake, New York to their peregrinations.

 In 1990, while visiting them in Paris, I received a message that the MacArthur Foundation wished me to call. It was pouring rain. We bought a bottle of Bordeaux and checked me into a hotel. We celebrated my news together in the hotel room.

 Later, she sat with me for hours and helped me to assemble my Selected Poems.

Leaving one evening, the lights of their car caught on a cat. This became Oliver. Oliver died in October; he was preparing the way.

There are many such episodes, and I mention them because it seems to me now that Stacy was part of the syntax of my life. Whenever I saw her, there was a form of attention, as if we needed to lean toward each other, into the pause, into listening. Not long after she was first diagnosed, she came to visit, and we made a trek across the Hudson to the Zen Mountain Monastery. The road up the mountain was covered in ice. Inside, an exhalation of color.   

Stacy wrote a number of astonishing and intricately conceived books. One of them, Paramour, carries, in part, this self-description: “It was written between 1995 and 2000 in the South of France and in North America by a willful female author who, nagged and baffled by questions of poetic form’s future, set out, as if she had all the time in the world on her hands, to catalogue, through strategies of parody and vivisection, an eclectic variety of Western prosodic models. For subject-matter the theme of love, certainly the most prevalent topic of poetic tradition, was readily selected.”

Love was always her subject.

On its back jacket, comments from Jackson MacLow, Sianne Ngai and Lisa Robertson.

Stacy got a teaching job at San Francisco State. Her students and her colleagues adored her.

She and Chet had two children, a daughter and a son, now six. Her friendships were profound; devotional, she caused devotion. Our mutual friend Rob Fitterman flew out to San Francisco this winter for a weekend to say goodbye. We are two among many who are full of sorrow. 

I spoke to her two weeks ago, after another of a long series of surgeries trying to stop a ferocious and rare cancer. She had undergone rounds of chemo and lost her beautiful auburn hair. Her voice was as vibrant as ever, but she sounded weary. I told her about a dream I had had about dying. In the dream, just after dying, I had become a spray of illuminated atoms, or motes, each of which was somehow aware of having been me; they were falling through a huge arc of space. It was understood that, over time, they would, like a candle, go out, and the consciousness of having been me would leave them. But, I added, there was a sense that the atoms would eventually reattach, recombine into new things: a cat, a chair. This story seemed to soothe her.

Her new manuscript, shortly to be published, is called Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit. 

Fly well, dearest of spirits.