John Ridland

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Born in London in 1933, John Ridland grew up in California. He earned his PhD from Claremont Graduate School and taught for forty-three years at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was Professor Emeritus of its College of Creative Studies. He published numerous books and chapbooks, including Ode on Violence, Elegy for My Aunt, Life with Unkie, A Brahms Card Ballad, Happy in an Ordinary Thing, A. Lincolniad, and Epitome and Epiphany; and translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl from Middle English, and several Hungarian poets, including Sándor Márai, Miklós Radnóti, and Sándor Petöfi’s John the Valiant. With his wife Muriel he wrote And Say What He Is: The Life of a Special Child. Ridland recently passed away on January 29, 2020, after a brief battle with cancer.
 Of Tim Murphy, Ridland wrote:

    Tim Murphy: A Synopsis
      —February 18, 2019

    Tim Murphy’s life lays out like the plot of a five-act drama, whether Tragedy or Comedy (Divine or Human), or Tragi-comedy, depends on your point of view.

    Act I
    Born a Catholic in a small Minnesota town near Fargo, North Dakota, he was pushed in his baby stroller by a neighbor lad, a certain Robert Zimmerman, renamed Bob Dylan. Tim’s mother directed her large family in Shakespeare productions, full memorization required.

    Act II
    Yale University. As “Scholar of the House” where Robert Penn Warren was the Master, Tim was required to memorize vast swatches of English poetry, did so, and memorized twice as much more.

    Act III
    Jump back to North Dakota, reincarnated as a Venture Capitalist. (One venture: a double-toothed leaf rake that clogged up and only worked like an ordinary rake when the upper teeth were removed.) Mixed success: sometimes a wealthy benefactor, backing the West Chester University Poetry Conference on narrative and forms; finally (I believe) bankrupted out. Writing all the time. Vociferous Libertarian politically. Boy Scouts administrator.

    Act IV
    Tim and his partner Alan Sullivan become the Terrors of Alex Pepple’s online Eratosphere, an extensive website on poetry, mostly formalist. Murphy’s poems and books keep cascading out of Fargo like a spring flood. Addiction to alcohol brings Tim very close to death, leading him to

    Act V
    Conversion back to the Catholicism of his youth, devout in the extreme, to the point where, Rhina Espaillat testifies in “Believer”:

      My friend insists he wants me to be saved.
      He argues that my soul will come to grief
      unless it’s rescued from my unbelief
      by Jesus—

    I didn’t suffer this, having been dropped from the crowd of extras during Act IV, after I brought him to UCSB, where he smoked heavily and drank surreptitiously, behavior somehow offset by his virtuoso performance of memorized English poems beginning with the Middle English “Alysoun.” As Al Stephens said, “Those students will never look upon his like again.”

       Requiescat in pace, unquiet spirit.