Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ted Schaefer, Poet and Colleague, R.I.P.

It's been a couple of weeks since I heard the sad news that my former colleague, the poet Ted Schaefer,  had left us.  He was a good and generous teacher, and he always indulged me when I'd drop by his office unannounced and hang out, leaning in his doorway and asking him about his time in the army, his work as a former cartoonist, and, of course, about poetry.  I learned a lot from him, including a thing or two about patience.

He wrote two books—After Drought and The Summer People—and published poems everywhere from the the old Saturday Review to the Village Voice.  But the poem that came to mind when I heard of his passing was a little one I'd run across in a 1974 issue of Intro back when I was a grad student and worked in Chicago's great, much missed Aspidistra Bookshop.  It was a journal associated with the AWP and published by Anchor Books, and it took me a while to get my hands on another copy: 

Ed's Cafe: He's Dead


The coffee
Perks in the urns.
The forktips sing away.
A dawn hits
Ed's widow.
I hear 
The breadman, and


"I want a red casket.
With blue flowers,"
I hear the woman say.
"I want to be buried
On a real bright
Shiny day..."

I'm sure Ted will be remembered with affection and gratitude by many, including his former students—among whom, in a way informal but real, I number.


  1. What an honorable man. As a teacher myself, I'm always in awe of teachers who make time for students "just dropping by."

    That's rare.

  2. Anonymous7:04 PM

    My computer limitations force me to be designated "Anonymous" but this is Ted's wife. Thank you so very much. Thank you for writing this piece and for sharing Ted's photo and poem. He loved his talks with you. Ed's Cafe was a real cafe in the college town where we met in Columbia, MO, 1969. I believe the quote was pretty much accurate. Ted loved his years teaching at Lake Forest, loved his students and his colleagues. My husband was truly patient, generous, fun and the best partner possible for our ongoing conversation of over 43 years. - Tricia Schaefer

    1. Thank you, Tricia. It means a lot to hear from you. Our thoughts are with you, and we keep Ted in our memories.

  3. Anonymous8:59 AM

    Thank you so much for honoring my dad on your blog. It means a lot to his family to know that our tragic loss has also profoundly affected others. Tributes such as this will keep his gentle, generous and artistic spirit alive.

    Jennifer Schaefer