by Nat Frothingham
Friends and admirers of Vermont poet David Budbill who died at his Montpelier home on Sept. 25, 2016 are continuing to remember and honor him.
Even with his passing, his friends and admirers are finding fresh way to give Budbill recognition as a poet and appreciate him for the man he was.
Andrea Stander who is one of Budbill’s many friends, saw in his spare and discerning poetry a voice that epitomizes Vermont. Stander said, “He wrote about people and about things that Vermont can relate to.”
In recent days Budbill has found fresh public recognition from the wide range of people he touched with his poetic voice.
Again as Stander said, “The Town of Wolcott where David and his wife Lois and family lived for some 45 years will be dedicating this year’s Town Report to him.” And a moving tribute to Budbill in a concurrent Vermont House and Senate resolution recalls his life in Vermont and his high professional achievements as a poet.
Parts of that tribute include the following sentiments.
“Whereas, for 45 years, the multi-genre writer David Budbill resided in Wolcott where he found an ideal homestead, and Whereas, a critic, reviewing David Budbill’s poetry collection, Judevine, described the volume as containing “some of the most direct and clear-eyed poems of the half-century” and compared the author favorably to Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, and…
Whereas, he soon chose the rural setting of Wolcott where he constructed a home, labored on a Christmas tree farm, tended a large vegetable garden, and pursued a notable literary career featuring the publication of 10 poetry books, seven plays, two novels, a short story collection, two picture books for children and an opera libretto “A Fleeting Animal: An Opera From Judevine,” with composer Erik Nielsen.
Whereas, he championed racial and economic justice as a writer and a citizen, and Whereas, David Budbill was the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors, and Whereas, although never named as the Vermont Poet Laureate, colleagues who have held this title wrote of David Budbill in the most glowing and laudatory terms, signifying they considered him a professional peer…”
Although Budbill many times was nominated for the honor of Vermont Poet Laureate, he was nonetheless never named to that position. But his many admirers have found a way to give him posthumous recognition.
This spring, Lost Nation Theater will present its third production of Budbill’s “Judevine” which will open on Thursday, April 20 and close on Sunday, May 7.
In a statement supporting the House-Senate resolution honoring Budbill, Lost Nation Founding Artistic Director Kim Bent characterized Budbill’s many accomplishments.
“I am proud to support today’s resolution recognizing David Budbill’s life-long accomplishments as a playwright and poet, a writer who captured the essential nature of our Vermont people. The iconic characters he created in his poems and plays will live forever as true embodiments of our independence, self-reliance, resilience, hard work, frugality, common sense and cryptic wisdom.”
Turning to the upcoming April production of Budbill’s Judevine, Bent continued.
“In April of this year, Lost Nation Theater will present its third production of Budbill’s play ‘Judevine,’ and I invite all legislators to attend. Like this resolution today, it will be a fitting way to celebrate David’s life, his work and his memory.”
Andrea Stander reflected on a Budbill poem that was offered to the Vermont House as part of a devotional by another Vermont poet Geoff Hewitt on the day that Budbill was honored by the concurrent House-Senate resolution.
Hewitt read two of Budbill’s poems. But it was Budbill’s poem “Bugs in a Bowl” that Stander said “resonated for me.”
Bugs in a Bowl
Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
We’re just like bugs in a bowl. All day going around never leaving their bowl.
I say, That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.
Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice Bowl!