Joel Climenhaga 9 April 1922 - 1 November 2000

Joel Climenhaga, who in Miriam Patchen's words "Knew Kenneth Patchen's work better than anyone else", died on 1 November 2000.


Joel Climenhaga was born on April 9, 1922 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Africa, of missionary parents, living there until 1929. As a young boy he lived in Canada, Oklahoma, and California, moving to Pennsylvania when he was in high school. He dropped out of college after three semesters, going to work as a proofreader for a newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. At the same time, he also wrote a gossip column for a local pictorial magazine. He moved back to California in 1942, where he worked as a laborer in a lemon packinghouse and as a warehouseman in steel mills, as well as working for two newspapers.

He served in the Army in World War II, being discharged in 1946. After being out of school for slightly more than seven years, he resumed his formal education under the GI Bill at Chaffey College, a community college in Southern California, later earning degrees in Theater Arts (BA in 1953 and MA in 1958) at the University of California at Los Angeles. Subsequently, he took additional graduate work at Stanford University, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and International College.

He married Zoe Lenore Motter in 1955. They are the parents of four children - one son (Neal) and three daughters (Anna, Greta and Miriam).

When first married, he taught high school in Pennsylvania, as well as being a technical writer for Douglas Aircraft Company in California. Also, he was a free-lance screenwriter in Hollywood.

He became a college teacher in 1958 at Wilmington College, in Ohio, where he was Director of Creative Writing. He also taught at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; at Culver-Stockton College, in Missouri; and at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, where he remained for 19 years. After "retiring" from Kansas State University in 1987, he taught for another five years - at Tarkio College, in Missouri, then at Teikyo Westmar University, in Iowa. Although not actively teaching now, he declares he will only finally "retire" when he dies.

In 1961 he originated TRANSIENT PRESS, when he published the first issue of Seed, a poetry magazine, under its imprint. During the greater part of the 1960's, other magazines (Jacaranda, Ferment, Rananim and Open Letter) were published through TRANSIENT PRESS. Later, during the 1970's and 1980's, other ephemeral poetry magazines and literary journals were published on an irregular basis under his editorship through TRANSIENT PRESS; these included Awakening, The Back Shelf Dispatch, Below Ground Level, Counsel for the Offense, Foundation, Greenage, Inner Dimension, Jonah's Gourd, Lighthouse in the Coming Storm, Noah, Only Two Believers, Qua Qua, Rock Drill, Scop, Stone Cottage, This Time, White Lion and Zymosis. [In the interests of bibliographical accuracy, it should be noted that TRANSIENT PRESS does not now nor has it ever had any relationship or resemblance to Transientpress, which at one time was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, nor with Transientpress Editions, published by Letter Bomb in Los Angeles during the 1980's. Also, publication of the magazine Seed by TRANSIENT PRESS preceded the publication of the hip newspaper Seed out of Chicago in the 1970's. Furthermore, publication of the magazine Jacaranda by TRANSIENT PRESS preceded the publications of both Jacaranda Press and Jacaranda Review in California during the 1980's and 1990's. Similarly, the publication of the magazine Scop by TRANSIENT PRESS preceded the appearance of Scop Publications out of Maryland during the 1980's and 1990's].

He dates his beginnings as a writer from when he was 15 years old, while he was living in Pennsylvania, at which time he wrote a series of short stories and some poems based on memories of his early childhood in Africa. Since then he has written in all forms, believing that there are no boundaries on creativity. As a playwright, he has written 19 plays - of which 17 have been produced in either professional, semi-professional, educational, or community theatres (there have been a combined total of more than 150 productions of his plays). Also, he has given numerous readings of his poetry.

Active as a theatre artist for more than 50 years, he has directed 136 productions (of which 63 were productions of new plays) and also has acted in 53 productions. From 1981 to 1987, he had a weekly radio program, One Man's Journey, which was broadcast over Radio Station KSAC, which later became Radio Station KKSU, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, an NPR affiliate and one of the oldest radio stations in this country.

He thinks of himself as a transcendentalist. Nevertheless, he believes that the human species is on a collision course with tragedy and if it is to survive there must be a world-wide effort made concerning over-population, as well as a cross-cultural rejection of nationalistic jingoism and religious intolerance, so that we may realize instead that we are all citizens of one planet.

About Joel Climenhaga
by Joel Climenhaga, 1997