University mourns loss of poet
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
In David Citino's poem "And So" he wrote "And so you called, weeping, to tell me this because you know of the compulsion we share to write."
Monday, Lee Martin, director of the creative writing program at Ohio State quoted this line in an e-mail informing members of OSU's community that Citino, an English professor at OSU and the university's poet laureate, had died from complications related to multiple sclerosis. Citino was 58.
Citino, who was a member of OSU's faculty for more than 30 years, was best known for authoring 12 books of poetry and being the driving force behind the creation of OSU's MFA program in creative writing. He was also the recipient of numerous awards, including an Ohioana Library Association award for career achievement.
Lee K. Abbot, an English professor at OSU who knew Citino for 16 years, described him as a generous-highminded professor, poet and father.
"He was tireless and devoted," he said. "If you share(d) his passion for that art, there was nothing he wouldn't do for you."
Abbot's sentiments are echoed by others. Michelle Herman, an associate English professor who knew Citino for 17 years, recalled the friendship Citino showed her.
"When I first got here I was a brand new assistant professor with no experience and I didn't know anyone," she said. "I was a New Yorker arriving in Columbus and I thought I had landed on the moon. And he took me under his wing."
Herman said she remembers how he welcomed her as a friend and as a family member.
"Whenever I went over to their place I was so nervous about driving after dark that when I would leave he would actually drive in his car in front of me and I would follow because I was so afraid of getting lost that he would actually drive me home by caravan to make sure I got home safely," she said.
Citino was on medical leave this quarter and had planned to continue teaching this spring, Herman said.
"Right up until the last minute he was thinking that he could take the chemotherapy treatments and teach. And it was just not possible for him to do that," she said.
Citino graduated from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and went on to earn a bachelor's at Ohio University before coming to OSU to earn his master's and doctorate.
"He was a fabulous writer and it almost seems, in retrospect, pretentious to be the roll of a mentor. To somehow guide his writing when he was so superb," said Morris Beja, professor emeritus in the English department, who worked with Citino on his dissertation.
Citinio was named the university poet laureate Oct. 4 2002. During this time he wrote poems for such widely different events such as the welcoming of President Karen A. Holbrook to the impact of Sept. 11.
"If you wanted a poem about rocks, David would learn everything there is to know about rocks and give you a poem that would widen your eyes and cause your heart to accelerate," Abbot said.
However, poetry about his love for Ohio and his family were what he wrote the most, said Kathy Fagan a professor of English who knew Citino for about 17 years.
"He wrote about what he knew, he wrote about being from Ohio, and he loved the state of Ohio. And he wrote about it in a lyrical way but accessible way that everyone could understand," Fagan said.
Throughout his career Citinio has served in various roles of leadership, including poetry editor and member for the editorial board of OSU Press and a past president of the board of trustees of Thurber House as well as a board of trustees member of the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
"He is probably the best representative of poetry that Ohio has ever seen and I don't know how we are going to recover from that loss," she said.
Citino died in his Upper Arlington home Monday after being released from the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital Saturday. He had been receiving chemotherapy treatments for leukemia since September.
A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Sunday at the Fawcett Center.