Pat Banta: In Memoriam

It’s our sad duty to announce that former OPA president, board member, and poet Pat Banta passed away in March of this year.

Patricia Banta was born on December 31, 1924 in Los Angeles, CA, the only child of Ernest G and Deloris (Éclair) Henry.  She died March 25, 2016 in Roseburg.

She attended school at U.C.L.A where she received her teaching credential.  She taught five and a half years in California before moving to Oregon in 1959.  There she continued to teach until retiring in 1980.

Pat enjoyed poetry and her poems were widely published in numerous newspapers and literary magazines.  She reviewed well known poets and their books for a variety of College Quarterlies.

OPA member Doreen Wiley writes:

                                                           REMEMBERING PATRICIA (GOW) BANTA

Pat Banta was active on the Oregon poetry scene in the mid-1960’s and 70’s when she and I worked on the OSPA board and served as presidents, as well as secretaries for the state’s poetry units. It was a time when the annual poetry banquets drew upward to a hundred guests at hotels like the old Congress in Portland—a time when poetry enjoyed a more populist voice in the nation. I have copies of a number of Pat’s poems, written during that golden age, when she was known as Pat Gow, later changing her name to Pat Banta.

Pat had a degree from the University of California and lived in Glide and Roseburg, Oregon, areas she loved and wrote about. Her poems appeared in Oregonian Verse, The Medford Mail Tribune, Driftwood, A Literary Magazine; Human Voice, and Quixote Magazine. She was a student of poetry and did work in poetry translation.

In reviewing some of Pat Banta’s poetry, I was intrigued by her poem, ANSWER TO A PASSING REMARK, a playful rebuke to William Stafford’s poem, PASSING REMARK.

First:

PASSING REMARK

In scenery I like flat country.

In life I don’t like much to happen.

 

In personalities I like mild colorless people.

And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

 

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,

says, “Then why did you choose me?”

 

Mildly I lower my brown eyes—

there are so many things admirable people do not understand.

William Stafford

The Rescued Year,   1966

2.

Pat Banta’s response:

ANSWER TO A PASSING REMARK

He prefers dull colors

still he is far from gray. . .

more like deep purple I would say:

and though he likes flat lands

wherever he stands Himalayas loom.

A quiet life suits him best

yet, in his mind

things are happening all the time!

And while his thoughts to shadows

cling—thoughts cut through

like a laser beam.

Patricia Gow

(Note: Reflections on “Passing Remark” by William Stafford.)

Driftwood, a Literary Magazine, Autumn, 1973

 

The gentle irony with which Banta challenges Stafford’s poem hits the mark “like a laser beam,” leaving the reader buoyed by her wit. The poem is also prophetic, in that William Stafford was just into his rise as a national poet.

Pat Banta worked hard to promote poetry in our state. She remains a bright voice in Oregon’s long legacy of memorable poets.

                                                                                                                                –Doreen Gandy Wiley

banta

 

Upper left: Ed Jacques, President; James Fleming, Audrey Barry, Treasurer; Robert Davies, Muriel Markham. Second row: Eloise Hamilton, Historian; Pat Gow (Banta), Vice President; Phyl Lesher. Front row: Marcella Caine, Betty Hall, Doreen Gandy (Wiley).

Featured OPA Contest Winner: Amy S. O’Hearn

Fences

were meant to climb over and woods dense with underbrush and muck our domain. We hacked through prickly bushes, trampled long grass, collected burrs on our clothes and in our hair, clear cut canopies to lay bare the soft earth, and sat for hours stripping bark to carve the skin that lay beneath. When that grew tiresome, we traipsed to the lowlands to construct a catwalk of doors over swamp and shape an inner sanctum within its towering reeds, until the day my father forced me to lead him to my brother’s towering collection of pornographic magazines. A tower quite impressive in the way it leaned so markedly to the right yet remained standing, almost as tall as I was at 8 or 9. I try to envision my father’s reaction, but all I can see is the tower of glossy magazines, his own stash transferred by my brother from his (my father’s) secret place under the bed to the end of a path of doors that lead to a circle of trampled weeds encircled by eight or nine foot reeds in the recesses of a swamp. I leave my father by the pile and follow the path back out to the road.

 

Amy S. O’Hearn: I wrote “Fences” many times, first in my head, the vision crisp and clear, and then many times on paper as I cut and cut, chiseling the image into shape, ultimately seeking to capture the swamp, the exposure of the magazines, and the emotional resonance of the scene. I was challenged with each revision to practice elision, to slash language, to match image with the words’ movements and rhythms, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  As I reread the poem now, I am no longer compelled to revise, a rare experience for a poet, as we are always tinkering with language and its infinite possibilities.  Thanks, OPA, for selecting my poem and helping me realize its completion.

 

Amy S. O’Hearn is a recent graduate of the Rutgers-Camden Creative Writing program in Camden, NJ. A teacher of literature and creative writing in New Jersey, she is wading into submissions and finding the water feels fine.

Featured OPA Contest Winner: Penny Hetherington

Snow on Western Hemlock Forest

A corps de ballet, wearing
Yesterday’s snowfall, branches
Sway, curving down,
Fingers dripping icy water
Under bright mid-day sun,
Heads tilted on drooping
Necks; they dance more
Slowly in dawn mist and
With abandon in moonlight.

 

Penny Hetherington: One late April day driving past a Western Hemlock grove on Mount Hood, I wrote this poem while my husband drove. On a sunny mid-morning, fresh snow was melting.Western Hemlocks have always reminded me of ballet dancers with tips drooping on ends of delicate branches. The snow intensified shape and the dripping water gave motion.

 

Penny Hetherington wrote technical documents about computers for over 20 years. She wrote her first poem for a friend’s 1997 memorial service with poems following steadily since. She has been learning about poetry by participating with Fishtrap, Concord, and OPA. Listening to our distinguished Oregon poets read and attending excellent workshop sessions have provided knowledge and enthusiasm. Poetry has become central. Penny occasionally sends a poem to a cousin or friend where they seem well received. She has sent a few to publishers and usually receives kind and encouraging rejection letters.