Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saul Galin, RIP

We were saddened to hear about the death of Saul Galin, who was our first creative writing teacher. Saul was the professor for our introductory undergrad creative writing class at Brooklyn College in the spring of 1972, and he was the first person to really encourage us, saying we were one of the few students who he thought could become a writer. We loved his stories and his amazing sense of humor, his no-nonsense but gentle style, and his great personal warmth and keen intelligence. We will miss him a lot and send our condolences to his family. Here was the obituary notice from today's San Francisco Chronicle:
Saul Galin
Died in San Francisco at age 85. Survived by his last former wife and friend Elizabeth Vasile, one daughter, and three grandchildren. Predeceased by another former wife and friend, Marlene Kopec. Professor Emeritus of English at CUNY Brooklyn, where he taught poetry, drama, and creative writing for over 40 years, spearheaded the creation of the departments BFA program in Creative Writing, and developed and directed the CUNY Brooklyn London Summer Program in Literature and Theatre. - See more at:
Above all, he was a champion of the power of the imagination, and encouraged his students and those surrounding him to find their creative voice. He also took pride in making great works of literature accessible to all. In 1961, he founded Odyssey Review, a quarterly journal of modern Latin American and European literature in English translation, which he served as editor. Odyssey published works never before translated into English, including pieces by Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Cesar Vallejo, and Nicanor Parra, and in so doing made these voices available to a wider audience.
In 1999, near the end of his career, he produced a 27-hour marathon reading of Moby Dick for the People of England, in which professional actors, students, and the general public were invited to take a part in reading the great work from beginning to end. Throughout his life, Galin had a passion for teaching and for the art of conversation. He was known for his exuberant personality, wit, and intellectual inventiveness.
Following his retirement from CUNY, he started a play reading salon, dubbed The Republic of the Imagination, where he presided as self-appointed President. A 2002 New York Times article about the salon captured the essence of these literary gatherings in quoting him thus: "The Republic of the Imagination is in everybody . . . It's a country on the map of the world where we can all go. Once we're there, we're free." The Republic of the Imagination convened play reading groups in New York apartments, and at the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco, where he also directed the first Mechanics Institute Annual World Poetry Reading, which featured the works of 34 poets recited by 17 readers in 10 languages.
Born in Suwalki, Poland near the German border, Saul came with his mother to New York in 1932 to rejoin his father, who had emigrated to the US a few years earlier. The family settled in the Bronx, where they had a small neighborhood grocery. Saul volunteered for US Army service in WWII, and fought on the front lines in the Battle of the Bulge. All of his family members who remained in Poland were lost, victims of the Holocaust. Following the war he returned to university, earning his Bachelors in Economics at NYU, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Funeral services were held on August 4, 2011, at Home of Eternity in Oakland, CA. Donations in Saul's memory to The Academy of American Poets, preferred.

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