Eulogy for a poet

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Bev Lehman 1929 -2017

These lines by Bev Lehman, who died at the age of 87 on March 26, 2017, are vintage Bev – observant, thoughtful, truthful and wry.

Bev was many things in her long and fruitful life: scholar (valedictorian of Paton High School graduating class of 1947; top academic in the English department at her graduation from Iowa State University in 1971); wife; mother of five; teacher, reporter, columnist, quilter, bridge player, sports fan, friend and poet.

In 2003, when Bev joined the new poetry group in town, she said she was an appreciator of poetry but not a poet; she would not be writing poetry, only bringing her favorite poems to share. That worked fine because the group was founded on writing or not but always appreciating.

Within a year, Bev was writing sonnets, one of the most difficult forms of poetry.

Her peers in teaching praised her excellence at that most difficult of jobs. Readers of her Bee and Herald column, “The View from Here,” followed her one-tick-off-center point of view each week. The logo of her pithy, right-on comments about life, politics, books and people was cows grazing – Bev’s graphic on putting herself out to pasture but keeping her head in the game after her retirement from reporting. Her quilting buddies praised her artistry with the needle. Her fellow poets fell under the influence of her way with the English language.

She was as good a poet as she was teacher and newspaper woman, quilter and bridge player. Her cleanly written poems covered politics, history, birth and death. Her down-to-earth stanzas were never constructed for showing off but for making a fresh statement about being human. Bev used the English language in a different form than she had been trained in, but true to form she wrote with elegance in her customary acerbic way — she never pulled a punch as she let all within her range know exactly how she felt, which made her as refreshing as a strong breeze on a hot summer night. And many times she made us cry, as in this poem after her son Dan died at the young age of 55:

Bev Lehman was always a brave poet, writing the lines like she lived her life.

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