Memorial for David Citino

I was in Columbus this weekend, to attend David Citino’s memorial service. We showed up close to when it was scheduled to start, and Matt and Juliet and I found ourselves in the back of the auditorium. The seats had already been filled, and the entire event was standing-room only.

The entire setup was very formal – a podium on the stage, and almost everyone dressed in suits. There were several speakers (I originally typed in “readers”), and it was a good range of speeches made in David’s memory. Some were very touching and heartfelt, others were more playful and made everyone laugh. A good mix. Among the many readers (there were about maybe 10 people total), Aimee was one of them – her being a longtime student of David’s, and his classes being the ones that helped steer her towards a life in poetry.

At the close of the memorial, one of David’s sons cited a few lines from one of his father’s poems, Volare. In that poem, there is a bit of singing, with the words: Volare, Wo-oo. Cantare, Wo-o-o-o.

At the end of his speech, David’s son sang out these last lines, over and over. He walked away from the podium and let his voice carry out over the auditorium. The audience was reserved at first, and it took maybe three or four passes of the song before people started to join in. But he kept singing, and kept waving at the audience to join in.

Eventually, the entire room was singing out Volare, Wo-oo. Cantare, Wo-o-o-o, over and over, softly and reverently. And his son walked away from the stage, and that’s how the service ended – everyone singing quietly, together. It was quite a fitting (and moving) way to end the ceremony.

Today, I got to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long while. Aimee was one of them. I saw Jason and Layla again. I also ran into Angela, another poet who was in my MFA class. Turns out she just recently completed her PhD in Film, and is doing the whole job interview thing at various schools.

For a brief moment, this intense feeling of missing Ann came over me. My class in grad school was very, very small – we only had about 10 people total. Four of us were poets: me, Aimee, Angela, and Ann. Standing there in that lobby, it was a sad thing to feel: the absence of two people, having spent three years with both of them.

Here’s one thing though, that I haven’t mentioned. As we were walking in towards the auditorium doors, David’s family had posted several large photos of him in the lobby area. He was smiling in all of them, and many photos dated back into the 60’s/70’s. On seeing his face (and some of his outfits), I couldn’t help but break out laughing a little bit. The photos were chosen to elicit this response, and I just loved them. Matt and I were both marvelling at the size of David’s afro, in one of the photos.

After the memorial, I made it a point to walk back to these photos, to just look and smile. I liked them all, but the one I remember was from the cover of an OSU magazine – with David standing in front of his bookshelf, holding up one of his books and smirking at the camera. He had one eyebrow slightly raised, and the look on his face… there was so much playfulness and mischievousness in his eyes…

Before leaving, Matt, Juliet and I followed Aimee and Dustin to their car, where their dog was waiting. And though I’ve seen many a photo of Villanelle, today was the first time we met in person. Incredibly cute, and a bundle of energy for such a tiny doggie.

I’m glad I was able to make it today, to the service. I’m saddened by David’s passing, but was happy to be around others who missed him as well. It was remarkable to see the extent of his influence, as both a writer and a teacher. I count myself lucky for being among the ones to have shared a classroom with the man – talking about words, about poems, talking about how to best describe our lives to one another.

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  1. As an Ohio poet, I knew David from readings and Arts Council work around the state. Such a fine human being. But I was living out of state when he died, never heard any word about what the memorial was like, nothing of the aftermath, so to speak. So it was a treasure to me to stumble onto this passage today, as I am preparing a project for National Poetry Month here in Ohio, trying to recall the giants whose shoulders we stand on. Surely David is one of them. Thanks for this.

    Diane Kendig Reply

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