The poetry community is smaller than it may seem to some, and when one of us leaves to join the angels, we hurt. This has been a particularly rough year. Just in the past couple of months we’ve lost Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Lucia Perillo, and Max Ritvo. We’ve also lost a poet who was a friend of mine, and of many others, the wonderful Ilyse Kusnetz.
I met Ilyse at a conference, introduced by her husband, Brian Turner. In 2011, I was fortunate to get to interview them and feature their poems together here in the Congeries. In 2014, I was lucky to include Valencia College—where Ilyse taught—as part of a readings swing through Florida. We had a grand time chatting at lunch and during the day. In 2015, we were able to bring Ilyse and Brian to the campus of East Carolina University as part of our Veterans Writing Workshop project. She visited my class—who’d studied her book—that day. She was interviewed by our campus radio station and later gave a stunning reading with Joe Bathanti. I’ll always remember these things.
Ilyse bravely battled the cancer within her for years, with grace and grit. She was a wonderful poet, teacher, and person, and our deepest sympathies go out to Brian, her family, and the poetry community who loved her.