Remembering Ivan BrownOtter
Ivan by Benjamin Daniel Lawless
“OK” I said
“Open your journals to a new page
You have 10 minutes to find your Voice
Think of your Voice as your Heart…
Ivan was a dear friend, fellow writer and performer, and an inspiration to everyone he met.
I miss him so very much.
In every one of my writing groups, he was there. I learned so much from him, cutting unnecessary words and building stories full of wonder. His fingerprints can be found all over my poems. I designed both of his books Crossing the Plateau and Through the Cosmic Mist. He contributed to Issues 1 and 3 of if&when as well as Solo Novo 5/6, which I had quite a bit of a hand in making.
I suppose all this is just to say… once I met Ivan, I couldn’t imagine going to a poetry reading and not seeing him, or writing and not having him around to bounce ideas off of.
Now, it’s time to carry his spirit with me, in my writing and in my art.
I talked a little about Ivan and performed one of his poems (“Back to the Future”) on the December 19, 2019 episode of the Science Faction Podcast, skip to 1 hour 17 minutes in.
Obituary by Rosemary Wilvert:
The poetry and wider community are deeply saddened at the loss of a gentle, unique individual, known on the Central Coast by his pen name, Ivan BrownOtter. He passed away peacefully on December 9, 2019.
Ivan has been San Luis Obispo’s Poet Laureate this year and leaves a legacy of many years sharing his craft and supporting fellow writers. He facilitated a monthly poetry reading in Atascadero and volunteered his amazing gift of cajoling — whether children in Guadalupe or honor students at S.L.O. High or senior citizens — to “write from the heart.” With his kind and humorous touch, he could get anybody to write and have fun.
Ivan was born in Michigan in 1942 and graduated with a BS in biology from Central Michigan University, where he played football. His main event, however, was the high hurdles, and later he competed in the national Olympic Trials. His first job brought him to California, to teach high school science in Los Angeles and then at a high school west of Phoenix, Arizona, for 19 years.
Ivan felt something was missing in his life and began to take journal- and poetry-writing courses at Arizona State University. Gradually, despite being dyslexic, he found a new life in which he blossomed as a poet and writing teacher. For the next 35 years, he became “Mr. Ivan,” the beloved writing teacher for school districts serving native American children in Rough Rock, Arizona, and children of all ethnicities in Roswell, New Mexico. And in his elder years, with his special way with children of all ages, he visited many schools as a guest poet.
Ivan’s three books of poetry connect his heart to the mysteries and beauty of the earth and its people. With sensitivity and vivid imagery, he wrote about teaching on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, wandering the plateaus under the stars, and growing old in a life of simplicity on California’s Central Coast. He loved Native American culture, all kinds of wildlife, and dogs and cats. For many years he faithfully walked Jake, his friend’s border collie, on the beach near his small Cayucos home. He was well along with another collection of poems when the Owl called his name.
A reading honoring Ivan’s poetry will be held on Saturday, January 4, 1-3pm, at 64 13th St, Cayucos. Guests may bring snacks to share, and, if convenient, a folding chair.
Donations in Ivan’s memory may be made to the Cultural and Creative Arts Center of Santa Maria Valley, a.k.a. “Corazon del Pueblo,” where he loved teaching writing to the kids in Guadalupe. The office address is 124 W. Main St., Suite E, Santa Maria, CA 93458.