An electronic festschrift

festschrift: a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar


There are generations of poets, scholars, students and fans who have something to say about Herbert Woodward Martin. And here’s the opportunity. Post your tale here; or send it to me, and I’ll post it. Here’s my e-mail address: schock( at )

4 Entries Entries.

  1. John Pfeiffer :
    January 27th, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I met Herb at the Dunbar Centennial Celebration in the early 1970s.  He threw the party.  The best African American writers in the world accepted invitations and came, and absolutely blew us all away in those few days.  I would never be the same.  I was teaching some of the sections in African American literature at Central Michigan University (CMU) then (starting in Fall 1971 and continuing for many years), and I was able to report to the class members that virtually all the writers we were reading that were still  alive were people I had heard in person, met in person, and . . . there is more:   For two years and more afterwards at CMU we were able to get as guests at least 14 of these writers who would become among the most celebrated in the world in the later decades of the century.  They came to our classes.  They gave giant readings to giant audiences in Warriner Hall.  They came to our houses  for parties:  (Etheridge Knight, whom I met at this time and whom I knew afterwards until his death, stayed at my house for nearly two weeks, going to many classes, reading poetry–making poetry that never got written down, every time he talked).   Moreover, they came for practically nothing–just travel, lodging, food, and a few hundred dollars honorarium.  Herbert Woodward Martin made this happen.  Today, for sure, to bring all these people in this way (even with a time machine) would literally cost  millions.   Herbert Woodward Martin made this happen.  And he was just getting warmed up in his own life and  career.  Ever since, he has remained there for me, personally, at least a half dozen times.  Hail, Herb!   You are one of the miracles in the history of my life.  John [John R. Pfeiffer]

  2. Michele F. Cooper :
    February 25th, 2009 at 7:17 am

    I was green and needy when I quit my second job as a college grad (this one was in Times Square) and was looking for anything related to literature, writing, or publishing.  Hated the interviews, but landed an office job at World Publishing on delightful 57th Street.  The building had lots of agents who took care of the trunks of their famous entertainers.  FRANKIE VALLI.  PAUL ANKA.  You saw their names, but never them.
    That was not the case at World Publishing, where I did meaningless work for the chief production designer/manager and waited for the mail-guy to bring in the envelopes and packages large and small.  He talked like an English major, and voilá, that’s just what he was.  Herbert Woodward Martin, English major and college drop-out who moved east from Toledo to become a famous poet inside the great artistic energy of the Big Apple. We chatted famously when he stopped by, and it became the highlight of the day.  I was 20 and green, as I said, and he was the first person in the arts that I met off campus and in the workplace.
    I wouldn’t have known Herbert was a poet except that one day when I was bringing some mail to go out, I looked in and was disappointed to see that he wasn’t there.  But something else was.  The counter was covered with neat piles that turned out to be poems!  POEMS on the counter instead of business envelopes and boxes.  I was very bad, and in my longing for artistic wholeness and in my innocence, stepped right up and started reading without permission.  The poetry was great, fully alive, and included some of the earliest contents of NEW YORK THE NINE MILLION, a book he later crafted by hand(!) and gave me as a gift.  Needless to say, I still have it and have often puzzled why it’s got the circle stain of a coffee cup on the back.  (<It wasn’t me!) 
    By and by, I was exercising whatever my critical eye was becoming on Herbert’s work, and my notes became not guidance for writing most (if not all) of the time, but the basis of fine literary conversation.  Little by little we shared our lives off paper, too.  That first year of friendship was grand, and we spent time at work, at weekly lunches on 55th Street, at coffee shops where Herbert was reading to rapt audiences, and at dinners with my ex-husband.  Nothing else to say:  we loved Herbert and loved his poetry.
    I was starting grad school at NYU and trying to get Herbert to go home for the three semesters he had left, and, to my great joy, he did.  Which led to his degree.  Which led to a Master’s.  Which led to a D.A., Doctor of Arts, and his distinguished career as a professor, critic, writer of many books, scholar (especially of Paul Laurence Dunbar), consummate presenter at poetry readings, performer (as Dunbar) at schools and in film, singer par excellence, winner of numberless poetry honors and prizes (one year he won six—is that right, Herbert?—six?—or was it more?)   Which eventually led to New and Collected, his biography, and this fine recognition in a festschrift.
    One reading still stands out:  how Herbert soared when he read from the high dais at the Community Baptist Church in Newport, RI, to celebrate 100 years of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Society.  Singing and reciting, his voice filled the huge sanctuary, the packed congregation drank it in with deep respect and pleasure, and I think he touched everyone in that room with his depth, his talent, and his joy, including me.  Glorious reading.

    I was thinking when I suddenly woke (fully) at 4 or 5 this morning, the role he played in the development and publication of my new book, Posting the Watch. He not only read the early poems that are still part of the collection and gave priceless feedback, but headed the Dept. of Encouragement so well and faithfully that he wrote an amazing letter recommending the book (now among the blurbs on the back cover), calling it “a new American voice, what Whitman called for,” etc., enough to blush over, treating me, writer of stories and essays, as an equal in poetry. And when, in 2006, I think, I was about to throw in the towel after three or four years of submitting and stop circulating the ms. he said, “Don’t give up–don’t you give up! Just keep working on it, keep making changes, keep the best poems only, make it the best you can and keep going!” He believed in the book!–and I could do no less. I removed every poem I wouldn’t read out loud at a reading, ended up with a much tighter ms. sent it out to six places in October whatever year, 2006, I think, and a few months later had two close acceptances and one unrecalcitrant Yes! from a great publisher, all within six weeks. Much happiness has ensued, as my father would say, and you can see that HWM well deserves the dedication, my eternal love and thanks, and whatever other good that comes to him.

    Call this a P.S., but this is one beautiful specimen of a man.

  3. Shari Krishnan :
    April 4th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Dr. Primeau first introduced my husband and me to Herb Martin and his breathtaking performances while I was completing my M.A. Thesis at CMU.  We  were deeply moved by Herb’s inspirational works and words.

    As huge Herb Martin fans, we are really looking forward to his Michigan film premier on May 6, 2009!

    Congratulations, Herb! We are so happy for you. 

    Best wishes,

    The Krishnan Family
    Shari, Rajan, and Nicholas

  4. Janine Scott :
    April 7th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    In the 1990’s, I met Herbert Martin when I worked in the Department of English at the University of Dayton.  The department was filled with interesting people – writers, poets, teachers, story-tellers – but Dr. Martin stood out as exceptional in many ways.  He was at once easy to talk with, yet reflective and brilliant. I always looked forward to Herbert’s request for me to keystroke a poem he was writing, and I became one of his biggest fans.  Knowing him (and his wife, Sue, and his family) was an opportunity of a lifetime, one I still remember and cherish.

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