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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


“Steve Orlen, professor, dies from cancer”

Steve Orlen, an English and creative writing professor and internationally known poet, died from cancer on Tuesday.

The UA Poetry Center’s banner for November states, “”Remembering Steve Orlen: Poet, teacher, friend. 1942-2010.”” Further, it reads: “”Steve, your words will be sorely missed. We will carry your words with us.””

An email went out earlier this month notifying students of his advanced-stage cancer.

Sean Rys, a graduate teaching assistant for creative writing who has worked to teach Orlen’s classes in his absence, wrote to students, “”As a close friend of Steve’s this affects me greatly, as I’m sure it does you. The news, frankly, is devastating. I do hope, however, to continue out the remainder of the semester in whatever semblance of unity or coherence still possible.””

Jerrold E. Hogle, an English professor, sent an email Wednesday telling students of Orlen’s death.

Orlen was diagnosed with pneumonia, but a further exam of his lungs revealed the cancer that took his life.

“”The speed at which severe illness overtook him was all too sudden — he was teaching classes this very semester — but he was very much at peace and at home with family when he died,”” Hogle wrote. “”The tributes and visits he enjoyed from many colleagues, friends, and students over his last few weeks were only fitting.””

Orlen was a poetry professor at the UA and Warren Wilson College. He was the author of a poetry collection, titled “”This Particular Eternity.””

Of Orlen’s poetry, Ausable Press, his publisher, quotes him as saying: “”If there’s an overarching question my poems bring to mind as I reread them, it’s this: Is it possible to be at home in the world?””

“”He was jovial and great to work with,”” Hogle said. He first met Orlen when Hogle came to campus as a new assistant professor of English in 1974.

Orlen stayed in hospice care at home with family and friends until his death.

“”There’s been students that came in (to the office), saying, ‘I’m really going to miss professor Orlen,'”” Hogle said. “”But I remember him for his friendliness, his cordiality, his humor, his charm. He was one of the funniest and most friendly people in the entire department and he spread that to everyone from students to staff to faculty alike.””

In a previous interview with the Daily Wildcat, Orlen expressed that charm and passion for poetry with reporter Kelsey Ahlmark in January 2008’s “”Faculty reading Thursday keeps with tradition.””

“”Any true poem should offer its reader paths through thought and intuition toward an altered awareness of his or her own life,”” he said. “”I want my poems to speak directly to the reader. At the same time, I hope they complicate the thinking of anyone who reads them. My poems are out of a desire to ask questions, not to supply answers.””

Hogle said forthcoming remembrances of the poet and professor are still in the works.

“”We will all miss him — students, faculty, and staff alike,”” Hogle said in the email. “”But will also remain deeply grateful to him for all that he has given us, on so many fronts and for so many good years, at the University of Arizona. An announcement of a public tribute will soon be forthcoming.””

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