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spacer.gif   Free Lunch Poetry To End After Ron Offen Hospitalized
Posted by : cj on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 05:37 PM
Chicago Poetry News: Click On Headlines .
The sad news is that 79 year old Glenview poet and print publishing advocate, Ron Offen, who has been the editor of Free Lunch: A Poetry Miscellany for twenty years, has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke and two seizures caused by a brain lesion.

Throughout the decades, Ron Offen has been a motivating force in the Chicago Poetry Scene. In the 1950s, he was co-editor of Odyssey: Explorations in Contemporary Poetry and the Arts, which published the early work of Charles Bukowski and Amiri Baraka. During the 1960s, Offen was executive editor of Chicago Literary Times. And during the 1970s, Offen was poetry editor of December, the “Poetry Beat” columnist for the Chicago Daily News, a book reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times and he also worked in the Poets-in-the Schools program sponsored by the Illinois Arts Council—all of this while also enjoying an extensive career in Chicago's theater scene. Mr. Offen's poetry has appeared over the years in Another Chicago Magazine, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Rhino, Zyzzyva and numerous other journals. His book God’s Haircut and Other Remembered Dreams was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and he was named a “Top Dog" for his fifth book Off-Target..

After a bout with cancer, Mr. Offen started publishing Free Lunch in 1989 and he soon became famous for giving free subscriptions to it to over 1200 American poets. Offen says on his website, "I thought about how important poetry had been to me my whole life and how much it had given to me. So, I thought, I want to give something back to poetry and poets." Free Lunch poets enjoyed being published next to some of the greats, but Offen is also known for tirelessly commenting on all work submitted to him, even poetry that he rejected. "As a poet myself, I know how dispiriting it is to get a printed rejection slip with no indication as to why my work was being rejected." One poet from every issue of Free Lunch received a $200 prize through The Rosine Offen Memorial Award, named after his late 2nd wife.

Issue 41 of Free Lunch features work by Billy Collins, Denise Duhame, Stuart Dybek, Allison Joseph, Lyn Lifshin, the late Mark Perlberg among many other poets. Issue 42, which was recently mailed out, will be the final issue of Free Lunch.

Ronald (Ron) Charles Offen, 79, of Glenview, Illinois, died on August 9th
in Glenview. The cause of death was cancer.

Ron was born October 2, 1930 in Chicago to Charles Offen and Ellen Shirreffs Offen. He graduated from Austin High School, received an A.A. from Wright College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. In the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Southern California and was delighted to return to the Chicago area in 2001. He was divorced from his first wife, Sharon Nealy; his second wife, Rosine Brueckner Franke, died in 2001. He is survived by his third wife, Beverly Kahling Offen, his sister, Pam (Charles) Veley, his children, Eric (Diane) Offen and Deirdre (Don) Junta, Michele Offen and Darren (Beatriz) Offen, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Ron held many jobs, from taxi driver to insurance investigator to middle school library assistant. But the force that gave his life meaning was always the written word; he was an author, a poet, playwright, editor, and theater producer.

In 1989, after a bout with cancer, he thought about how important poetry had been to him and how much it had given him. To give something back to poetry and poets, he started the magazine Free Lunch, with the commitment to give all serious poets in the U.S. a free subscription and also to comment on all work submitted to him. Free Lunch has published many of the best-known contemporary American poets. In 2009, due to his illness, publication of the magazine ceased.

Ron loved his wife, his children, his many friends, poetry, trees, the color orange, playing the trumpet and the piano, cookies, contemporary art and architecture, WFMT, caring for his collection of house plants, books, turtles, jazz, Bach and Chopin, swimming, the Midwest, and evenings at home.

There will no funeral services. A memorial celebration will be scheduled. Ron’s papers are archived in Special Collections at the University of Chicago. Memorial donations may be made to the University of Chicago with an indication that they are intended for support of Special Collections. Send to Judy Lindsey, Director of Development, University of Chicago Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637.

Note: Issue #42 will be the last issue of Free Lunch.

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