I’m never sure what to call myself. I’ve tried assistant, personal assistant, organizer. I’ve tried avoiding labels altogether and saying simply that I “work with” Madeline DeFrees, and I offer examples by way of definition: organizing her books and papers; housing her archive until I find a permanent home for it; pursuing the publishing projects we discussed when she asked me to take on this role six years ago. Madeline was nearing 90, but she still lived alone in the Craftsman bungalow she’d bought when she retired to Seattle in 1985. We agreed that it made sense to start right away, while she could offer me some direction and answer my questions. I wasn’t the first person she asked or the only one willing to do it, but I was the youngest, the one who’d ostensibly have more time to figure it out.
From “Partial Inventory,” Los Angeles Review, Volume 14,
Fall 2013, dedicated to poet Madeline DeFrees, 1919-2015