Friday, June 21, 2013

Rob Zseleczky (1957–2013)


[Rob Zseleczky, August 2010. Photograph by Elaine Fine. The blur is accidental. I like it.]

I first met Rob on Fordham University’s Bronx campus. Was it 1978? We were a year or two apart in our trek through “English,” and I knew him as a fellow traveler in the field. Rob was a poet and the editor of Fordham’s student literary publication The Monthly (which was not a monthly), and he liked and printed the poems I offered. Our paths crossed again at Boston College, where we both ended up in grad school in 1980. I saw Rob at an orientation for new grad students, at the end of a row of folding chairs: a familiar face! After the orientation, we had a beer, and we became friends, for keeps. And we both became friends (again for keeps) with Luanne Paulter, another grad student in English (now half of the duo Jim and Luanne Koper).

In recent years, Elaine and I saw Rob every summer when we traveled east, always in the company of our hosts Jim and Luanne. There would be much food, much wine, much laughter. The nights would run very late. Rob and I would always play guitars for a while. Rob was a brilliant guitarist — beautiful tone, beautiful touch. And when he played something like, say, “Fire and Rain,” it was note-perfect. Yes, he liked that James Taylor stuff. Our common musical ground was blues. A, E: buy your vowel, or key, and we could go on forever.

Rob’s generosity went on forever too. It was there in e-mails, in letters, in mixtapes and CDs. When our son Ben took up the guitar, Rob gave him much encouragement. When Ben began tinkering with an electric, Rob gave him a Marshall amp. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got an envelope in the mail with a cartoon torn from The New Yorker, “24-Hour Blues Cycle”: “My woman done left me, ran off with my best friend. / Well, my woman done left me, said she ran off with my best friend. / Details are sketchy at this time, so let’s go to Jennifer Diaz standing by in Washington.” How had I missed that?

In the last two or three years Rob’s poetry got better and better and better. I saw “To the Coin Toss I Lost” in an earlier version in 2011. The finished version appeared last year in the Concho River Review (Spring 2012). I have typed out the poem — no mistakes.¹ I take the last two lines to heart:


Three related posts
A poem for RZ
Another poem for RZ
Good advice from Rob Zseleczky
Rob Zseleczky on clutter and stuff

¹ Rob worked as a copy editor and proofreader.

comments: 10

Elaine said...

That is a real loss. So sorry.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Elaine.

Dick said...

Just weeks ago, Rob and I were having an e-mail discussion about Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek's death and Rob said he would spend that weekend immersed in the sounds of The Doors. Now here we are speaking about Rob's untimely demise. Damn! He will be sorely missed.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing that here, Dick.

Pat said...

Thank you Michael. One of my favorite things to do with Rob was to send him a very simple email, it would only say "Clapton sucks." I knew this would generate a several pages long email back about music and guitar playing. I would usually respond back with, "Well, Duane Allman sucks too." He knew I was joking, but it was the type of thing he could spend hours talking about and the email crazyness would go on for days. I will miss that greatly. Amazingly, I will also miss the occasional 4:30am phonecall to rant about some political thing or another. As someone else said about Rob, I see him now standing by a lake fishing, with one of his guitars next to him.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing those memories, Pat.

Rob wrote me an e-mail at the beginning of June about going fishing and listening to Duane Allman, Clapton, Hendrix, and the Doors. He mentioned (in response to my question) that he always threw fish back. He didn’t catch any fish on that trip though.

I posted a Yeats poem today that has fishing in it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
We just found out about Rob's passing; such sad news. Often he would jam at our house and was so passionate about the guitar & music, in general...Clapton, in particular. I can still see his expressive face & hear his voice in that particular 'Rob' fashion when he was trying to make a point about a particular guitar phrase. The world has lost a truly renaissance man. May he rest in peace.
Stephanie & John

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for writing, Stephanie and John. If this is John P., you should know that Rob’s family and Luanne and I tried to figure out how to get in touch with you in June.

I can’t pick up my guitar without thinking of Rob. I miss him in many ways, and that’s when miss him most.

BV said...

Oh, My...

Clapton, fer sure - He WAS God to Rob !!!

What a shock to discover he's gone.
So many stories...

BTW, Mr. P****S is "Jon", unless he changed his name - And is that Pat W. ?? Haven't seen her in looong time ! Jon either...

BV

BV said...

Scratch that about John - it IS "John", so that probably is John P., I just haven't seen him since '05 - How we lose touch with our old friends...