Associate professor of English and associate chair for creative writing hailed as ‘charismatic,’ ‘irreplaceable,’ and a ‘great poet and fine teacher’
Noah Eli Gordon, a prolific poet and literary figure at the University of Colorado Boulder, died of unexplained causes this month. He was 47.
The death of Gordon, an associate professor of English and associate chair for creative writing, was announced by his mother via Facebook. She did not discuss the cause of death but lamented the “terrible tragedy” and asked for “time and space to process my grief.”
News of his death prompted an outpouring of grief from friends and colleagues.
“Noah Eli Gordon was such a charismatic presence and part of the bedrock of American poetry as my generation has known it. Irreplaceable. My heart goes out to his family,” said fellow poet and author Joshua Carey on Twitter.
A woman who identified herself as a former student on Twitter wrote that Gordon was her first poetry instructor. “His class is why I ever started writing poetry in the first place. He wrote me a recommendation letter when I applied for a job at the writing center. Devastated by this news.”
Jeffrey N. Cox, CU Boulder distinguished professor and chair of English, shared the news with his department on Monday, saying: “He was a great poet, a fine teacher, and an important member of our community. He will be deeply missed by all of us.”
On teaching creative writing to undergrads, he believed the most important thing was to “turn his students into avid readers” who could achieve their own understanding of what a literary work does and how, The Focus reported.
Gordon’s own creative process, he told a fellow poet in 2007, involved writing “a lot.”
“I’ve tried everything I can think of to bring a poem into the world: automatic writing; timed writing; making word lists; sketching out detailed charts of specific syntax and filling in the words later on; writing only in public; writing at specific times of day,” he said, adding:
“The really maddening thing about it—and I’m sure this is true for many, many poets—is that once you’ve had that breakthrough moment with a particular mode, it’s sure not to work the next time.”
Gordon’s recent published titles include Is That the Sound Of A Piano Coming From Several Houses Down? and The Word Kingdom In The Word Kingdom. Gordon’s poetry drew from a number of sources and inspirations he considered formative, including the works of Charles Simic, Ann Lauterbach and Michael Palmer, as well as the worlds of music and visual arts.
Gordon’s latest published work, Is That The Sound Of A Piano…, draws on significant musical influences.
Gordon thrived on collaborations, with notable literary names including Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Sara Veglahn.
He was also an editor and co-publisher of several literary magazines, including The Volta and Letter Machine Editions, and director of Subito Press and Braincase Press.
Noah Eli Gordon was born in 1975 in Cleveland, Ohio, and was living in Denver at the time of his passing. He earned a BA and MFA in 1999 and 2004, respectively, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He joined the CU Boulder faculty in 2009.
Noah Eli Gordon was such a charismatic presence and part of the bedrock of American poetry as my generation has known it. Irreplaceable. My heart goes out to his family.
Gordon’s literary prowess showed even in social media posts. Upon receiving his first COVID-19 vaccination, this is what he posted on Facebook on March 21, 2021:
“I’m sitting in the parking lot of Dick’s sporting-goods arena in Denver, sobbing. All of the tumult, tension, uncertainty, all of the ways we have been collectively jostled over the course of the last year, I feel it all acutely coursing through my body at this very moment, feel it making its slow way out, exiting at last, like some kind of baptismal, cathartic decamping. I’m sitting in the parking lot of Dick’s sporting-goods arena after having just gotten vaccinated. I’m sitting alone in my car. There are one hundred other people alone in their cars around me. The collective isolation of the last year hangs in the air like some kind of fog ready to be blown away by strong winds. I think about the five people I’ve loved who died over the last year, how they too hover in the periphery, how the heartbreak I’ve gone through recently also clouds my way of seeing the world. I’m sitting in the parking lot of Dick’s sporting-goods arena after having just gotten vaccinated and waiting the requisite 20 minutes to ensure that I don’t have an allergic reaction. I wonder if I’m the only one here sobbing; it started the second I got the shot. It was painless. But it made me feel something, made me feel connected again to all the pain I’d been through this past year, to all the pain we’d been through, all the pain you’ve been through. Now, I’m ready to drive home...”