About Steve

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Steve Tudor in Brief

A clean-shaven Steve Tudor in the 1960s. Photo taken by his wife, Ellie.Stephen H. Tudor was born on October 12, 1933, in Carroll, Iowa, to Eugenie Ellis Tudor (d. 1997) and Hugh J. Tudor (d. 1986). He had two siblings—his sister, Jeannie Campbell Tudor (1934-2006), and his brother, William E. Tudor (b. 1931), a now-retired Anglican minister, who had the sad honor of officiating at Steve’s memorial service.

Steve Tudor, poet and professor, taught creative writing at Wayne State University in Detroit from 1968 until his death in 1994. He earned his B.A. at Trinity University, Hartford, CT, MFA from the University of Oregon, and MA from the University of Iowa, where he met Eleanor Petzoldt, whom he married on October 15, 1960. Their son, Michael, was born August 2, 1962. At WSU, Steve became one of the primary mentors for creative-writing students and served as director of the Creative Writing Area until he became Associate Chair of the department, two years before his death.

His poetry was published widely in journals and magazines (including North American Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, and Open Places). His chapbook, Tudor’s Anatomy, a celebration of self from head to toe, was published by Corridors Press in 1981.

Steve loved sailing and wrote extensively about the activity. A very poet-like shot of Steve Tudor in the 1960s. Photo taken by his wife, Ellie.Sailing is the chief subject of his book Hangdog Reef (1989), which won a Faculty Award from Wayne State University’s Board of Governors. He also was a recipient of an NEA fellowship.

He disappeared while competing in a Great Lakes race, the Singlehanded Challenge Regatta, which begins in Port Huron and finishes at Mackinac Island. His sailboat was found, but his body never was recovered.

His final collection of poetry, also about boats and his love of the water, Haul-Out (1996), was published posthumously.

He is survived by his wife and son.

The Stephen H. Tudor Endowed Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing, established in his name at Wayne State University by the English Department faculty, continues to support students in creative writing.

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Color image of the black-and-white photo used on the cover of Steve's book HAUL OUT, taken by Alex Ramos when he was sailing with Steve in Georgian Bay.

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I lived in Detroit for over eight years, from 1974 to 1982. That’s where I started writing poetry: taking night classes from Faye Kicknosway and Ken Mikolowski at Wayne State, attending the Cranbrook Writers’ Conference, and joining various poetry workshops. In 1977, while still living in Detroit, I enrolled in the country’s first low-residency MFA program at Goddard College in Vermont. In my last semester, I worked with Stephen Dobyns (the stunning and prolific poet and novelist), who had graduated from Wayne State and still considered Detroit his old stomping grounds. I had a lot of research to do, and WSU’s library was the best place to do it, but I wasn’t a registered student. Dobyns, who knew Steve Tudor, told me to contact him in order to get full library privileges.

Dobyns told me that Tudor was one of the very best professors and, besides, “a great and considerate guy” who would be sympathetic to my situation. He was totally right on both counts. I remember my first meeting with Steve; he put me right at ease—telling me not to worry about my access to the library because he would take care of any problems. And he did. Then we spent about an hour talking about Goddard’s MFA Program, his memories of Stephen Dobyns, and my own writing. He was a remarkably generous man to someone who, at the time, was a total stranger. I have never forgotten his kindness to me, and I was deeply saddened by his death in 1994. At that time, I was living in Grand Rapids but came back to Wayne for his memorial service.

Probably the best tribute to Steve and his work that I’ve read can be found in Daniel Hughes’ foreword to Steve’s book Haul-Out:Steve and fellow WSU poet Alvin Aubert at a literary function, early 1990s. Photo by Hugh Grannum.

“When Steve Tudor lost his life sailing on the Great Lakes in 1994, his friends and readers knew it would not be ‘o.k.’ and that the ‘reassurances’ would probably never come. But the poems he left behind...give us solace and a memory and remind us, in the words of Wallace Stevens, how poetry helps us to live our lives...”

Steve Tudor was a class act.
Linda Nemec Foster

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Steve making an effort not to squint. Photo by Diane Patterson, 1994.Steve Tudor used to squint when he was serious. He peered through half-closed eyes at the poems his friends wrote, at the tea we served without proper milk, at the trail his sailboat left behind as it crossed Lake Erie.

He squinted when we talked about Corridors, too, even when the magazine was just a crazy idea in an adjunct’s mind. He already was imagining what its cover would look like and whose poems would grace its pages, and perhaps enjoying in advance the spaghetti dinners and the dances we would hold to cover its expenses.

Corridors never would have appeared without Steve Tudor. The editors are dedicating this issue to him in appreciation of his friendship and his talent, and of the many stories he gave us. If there were space here, for example, I could tell how he showed himself the captain of our crew when his sailboat hit a rock on the way into harbor at Flower Pot Island. Or I could tell you how I spent my thirtieth birthday with him and Joe Coulson, reading our own poems from his deck on the Detroit canals. Or I could recount how he mastered the binding machine at the Red and Black Print Co-op—a rather dangerous piece of equipment—while I constantly blistered my hands on the thing’s hot glue.

As we gathered material for this anniversary issue and then wrestled the magazine to bed, all of us at Corridors missed Steve’s insight and his good-natured prodding. I imagine him squinting over our new effort, rubbing his beard (if he had lately grown one), and giving a satisfied laugh. “Nice job!” he would compliment us—and then quickly bring us back to earth: “When’s the next issue?” – Jane Dobija

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Eastern Market, sailing at dusk on Lake St. Clair, long trips north to Thunder Bay, quiet afternoons reading poetry with Dan Hughes, hand sewing the spines of chapbooks, repairing a damaged keel, sawdust—all this and a great deal more return to me when I think of Steve Tudor. He was my teacher, mentor, father, and friend. His passions and his generosity of spirit, his way of being in the world gave me a glimpse when I was very young of a life that otherwise would’ve been impossible to imagine. He’d be embarrassed, of course, to read these words—perhaps his greatest gift was an honest humility. – Joseph Coulson

Steve working on his boat in his backyard (a canal), Harbor Island street, Detroit. Photo by Hugh Grannum, early 1990s.

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Steve in his other element: a sea of books. Photo by Anthony Ambrogio, 1983.Not being the most deft person myself, I’ve always admired people who know how to get the job done, particularly if the job has to do with the use of tools. I’ve had the privilege of knowing two women, my mother and my older daughter, who could face challenges of a practical nature requiring ingenuity and manual labor, and two men: Gene Pluhar, my now-retired pottery teacher, and Steve Tudor.

That Steve was a consummate poet made it all the more wondrous that he could also build and repair whatever needed making. I never saw Steve on his boat, where of necessity a lot of expertise, hand-and-eye coordination, and manual labor come into serious play. But I remember the marvel and surprise of the office staff in the English Department at Wayne State University when Steve, then in the lofty post of associate chair of the department, got fed up with administrative delays about a bulletin board that the department badly needed. He brought his tool box, measured, went to a lumber yard, and in two days we had a sturdy, functional, and attractive bulletin board.

I have always regarded Steve’s pragmatism and skill as antidotes to intellectual pretentions, both practiced by literary critics and the poets who fill the ranks of academia. I remember his hands, large, with blunt fingers, capable, and generous. With those hands I saw him pick wild flowers, stroke his beloved dog, caress a child, and pluck poetry out of the first computer keyboard I’d ever seen. Poesis, making—“labour . . . dancing where/ The body is not bruised to pleasure soul”: Steve Tudor at work, in memoriam. – Anca Vlasopolos

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Everyone who met Steve Tudor immediately recognized his soft-spoken competence and generosity of spirit. I was often the recipient of both.

When we moved from our apartment in Palmer Park to our first home on the east side of Detroit, Steve—out of no obligation but kindness—offered to help us. Other friends helped too, but Steve’s assistance extended to more than just loading and unloading boxes. I had rented a huge truck from U-Haul, and it soon became apparent (when I almost creamed a parked Volkswagen on our narrow street) that I was not likely to successfully convey this vehicle with all our worldly possessions across town without serious damage to all and sundry. Quietly, Steve offered to take the driver’s seat, and he commandeered that sucker as if he’d been driving semis all his life.

A few years later, when I needed to write some entries for a film encyclopedia, Steve did me the very great service of loaning me his Kaypro computer—a monumentally magnanimous gesture in those early days of home computing, when PCs were new and very expensive. I treated that machine as if it were glass (honest!), but, as I was carefully packing it up to return it, I somehow managed to drop the keyboard—sending the letter “e” flying off onto the carpet. I can’t tell you how much I dreaded having to tell Steve that I had broken his computer, but somehow I managed to blurt it out. He took the news and the dislodged “e” from me with his usual equanimity and told me not to worry about it. Later he said he’d used a little glue, and the keyboard was good as new.

We can all be grateful for the poetry Steve left us—human poems through which his humanity shines. I am personally grateful for the humanity he showed to me. – Anthony Ambrogio

Steve and crew after unloading the monster truck he drove, May 1981. Photo by Anthony Ambrogio.

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