Remembering Noel Peattie, a letter from Chris Dodge

Dear Colleagues,

A friend died yesterday, a good one.

Librarian, poet, small press editor and publisher, sailor, raconteur, cat companion, Friend: Noel Peattie died yesterday morning, Jan. 13, 2005, in Davis, California where he'd been readmitted after complications developed while recovering from hip replacement surgery on January 3. Noel was a longtime resident of Winters, California.

Born in 1932, son of naturalist authors Donald Culross Peattie and Louise Redfield Peattie, Noel authored four books of poetry (a fifth is forthcoming), an erotic novel featuring a woman librarian, a wee book about sea monsters, and two works published by McFarland: A Passage for Dissent: The Best of Sipapu, 1970-1988 and, with John Swan, Freedom to Lie: A Debate About Democracy

For 25 years-- fifty issues-- Noel published Sipapu, a little magazine of news, reviews, and interviews relating to libraries, alternative and small press, poetry, and politics. It was in the pages of Sipapu that I first read an interview with Factsheet Five founding editor Mike Gunderloy. Its format and content were a model for MSRRT Newsletter, and Noel's life, I realized yesterday-- has also been a model.

I remember an ALA conference in Chicago, at a Task Force on Alternatives on Print (AIP) program on zines, where Noel stood up in the audience and recited a limerick he'd written-- possibly on the spot-- that encapsulated the essence of zines and the people who create them with his typical wit and precision.

A look at the table of contents of A Passage for Dissent offers clues to Noel's interests and personality. Here are a few items that stand out:

Sanford Berman's challenge. Get out your tablet (a game of chess from Lapland). Stumped for an answer (the Sonoma County Stump). Mother Knows Best (the Mother Earth News). Hugh Fox on the underground. A symposium on Chicano literature. Asian-American writers' conference. Women's Collection Development Conference. Will Pudge *ever* get laid? My love gave me a turtle tag. Tell me not here, it needs not saying (review of Callenbach's _Ecotopia_. Quiet, please, we're doing a revolution (interview with Carol Leita and the Women Library Workers).... And so on, and so forth.

Joyous Noel.

I remember the first time I received an email from Noel-- as surprising as if I'd received one from Sandy Berman--and his always encouraging words. I'd send him a poem or two, and he'd write back, "Lovely! Get a bunch of these and send them out!"

"Poems go on," he once wrote to me. "Poets? Well, they slowly perish while dining on chilled white wine and cream cheese. I can recommend the best of the latter; the choice of the first is up to you."

Noel was the first winner of AIP's Jackie Eubanks Award in 1995, recognizing "outstanding achievement in promoting the acquisition and use of alternative materials in libraries."

He will be sorely missed by friend and family.

Noel's nephew David Peattie, a longtime collaborator with Noel in publishing Sipapu, wrote yesterday:

"Along with members of his Quaker Friends meeting, we'll be planning a memorial service.... In the meantime, please feel free to go to his website, You can order copies of his books of poetry from Regent Press, and they'll be available at his memorial service, in addition to a new book of poetry, 'The Testimony of Doves,' which he was just completing reviewing proofs for when interrupted by his hospital stay. I will work with Regent Press to make sure they're completed in time for his memorial service."

The link on Noel's website to his publisher, Regent Press, is currently incorrect but will be fixed. (Access Regent Press here:

The Way to Get Through Life

is to try! yes, how?
to forget
most of it.

Like, all the yeears at school,
(but not the lifelong friends,

then, the weekends that were joy;
city adventures);

and rather hope for, much later:
vast witty banquets;
at which you'll be honored
-- poems of a lifetime! --
under glittering chandeliers.

And welcome: all goings to bed:
even those

except the last,

except the last.

Noel Peattie
from the forthcoming "The Testimony of Doves"