Each reader had to climb a challenging set of steps to get to the podium. His wife wore a formal, dark Asian outfit set off by shiny red patent leather platform shoes. For the occasion she had her toenails painted red to match. Writer Steve Huff gallantly assisted poet Beatrice O'Brien, 89, up to the stage. And, Stephen Dobyns had to manage nursing a bad knee assisted by an industrial cane. Carruth would have particularly appreciated all this drama.
Dobyns initiated the Masters in Creative Writing Program at SU, but it wasn't until Carruth's suicide and subsequent survival that they became fast friends. He said he had to adopt Hayden, so he could come out of the hatch (read Carruth's essay on the subject at haydencarruth.netfirms.com/suicides.htm).
"He read a poem he wrote about his friendship with Hayden that was set in the hospital during the days before we brought him home to die in Munnsville," Joe-Anne said. "The second poem was a new verse by H. (Hayden), titled 'No. X.'"
Beatrice O'Brien told the audience that she met Carruth 25 years ago at the University of Rochester, when she was aspiring to be a poet.
"Hayden convinced me that week that I was a poet," she said. "It made a huge impression ... I am grateful to him and Joe-Anne for continuing the friendship."
She read from Carruth's book For You, the poem titled, "Trees."
Brooks Haxton, a former SU grad student of Carruth's, is on the MFA faculty at SU. He read the final three sections of "Paragraphs," from Brothers I Loved You All, a series of poems leading up to the song, "Bottom Blues." Clearly Jazz and its players spoke to Carruth, as he often wrote back to them in his work.
Another former student, Anita Stoner, read "Ray," Carruth's nod to Raymond Carver, from Scrambled & Whiskey, which won the National Book Award in 1996.