Jeff Poniewaz and Antler had been partners for 40 years when Jeff succumbed in December, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. Roughly 6 weeks later, in late January, 2015, Antler paid tribute with his own words of remembrance and a reading of Jeff’s poems as part of the annual Woodland Pattern Book Center’s Poetry Marathon in Milwaukee.
The marathon, the 21st, brought together hundreds of poets, writers and lovers of the arts for a reading that went from 10 a.m. through midnight. Over 150 poets and writers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the region performed to benefit Woodland Pattern’s 2015 programming in literature and the arts, including their afterschool program and youth summer camp
Poniewaz had a long history of eco-activism. In 1988, he organized an Earth Day Poetry Celebration, in part out of frustration with what he saw as the Reagan administration's anti-environmental policies. That event spawned the Earth Poets & Musicians group, which performs annually to celebrate Earth Day and raise funds for ecological organizations. Poniewaz earned a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where for many years he taught a course on the literature of ecological vision.
Jeff’s poetry was praised by the major Beat writers. Allen Ginsberg said he wrote with “impassioned prescient ecological Whitmanesque/Thoreauvian verve and wit” and Lawrence Ferlinghetti praised his poem “September 11, 2001” as “the best poem I’ve read re 9/11.”
These lines from a 1994 poem, “Why Young Men Wore Their Hair Long in the Sixties,” shows the level of wit he brought to serious topics.
Because they could feel the deforestation of the Amazon
breathing down their necks even then.
Because half the world’s trees have been cut down
Because they didn’t care if some bigot
thought they looked like girls--
Because they had to become long-haired Indians
to expiate the genocide of the Indians,
Because Einstein’s hair burst from his skull in protest
of radiation sickness making people’s hair fall out
For more information on the annual Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon, click here.
To hear our recording of Antler's remembrance of Jeff at the Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon, click here.