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Kurt Russell Cline

1956 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Kurt Russell Cline Obituary
Kurt Russell Cline

Ithaca - Kurt Russell Cline, poet, scholar and magician, died peacefully at Ithaca Hospicare shortly after midnight on October 30. His wife, Lisa, was holding his hand.

Born December 8, 1956, Kurt spent his childhood in San Jose, Oakland, Modesto and Santa Cruz, moving to Berkeley at 18, where he joined up with a ragtag crew of seekers and poets: raucous readings at the Mediterranean Café, days spent among the stacks at Moe's and Shakespeare's, nights in a furnished room reading Blake and Baudelaire and writing "until his eyes bled." In 1979 Kurt met the love of his life while riding the 26 Valencia bus in San Francisco. Soon they embarked on a mutual adventure of exploration and mystery that lasted 39 years—through art into the psyche, across the country, over the seas, and back through art again. Returning to a childhood love of legerdemain, Kurt developed a magic act, becoming "Kurt the Mysterious: The World's Only Poetry Magician." He presented his blend of magic and poetry on stages on three continents.

Kurt was a scholar of shamanic practice and a practitioner-scholar of the Daoist path. Yet his true religious affiliation was to the creative expression of the human spirit. He inspired intense devotion in his students, meeting them in the open field of curiosity, helping them discover the world as it came to them, and aiding them in using their own artistic and intellectual powers to transform it. The focus of his life was indeed the true magic of art; he devoted himself to the artist's voyage of both touching and rendering intelligible the truth of the spirit. His personal alchemy was thus twofold: the pounding of sorrows and rage in the crucible of poetry, and an unshakeable stand on the ground of love as a transformative force.

Kurt earned an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, an MFA in poetry from Naropa University and a PhD in Literature from SUNY Binghamton. Subsequently he accepted a position as Associate Professor at the National Taipei University of Technology. There he collaborated in developing a Masters of American Literature and a Creative Writing program. He published five books of poetry, a book of scholarship, a memoir, a children's book and numerous scholarly articles and individual poems. A dynamic and prolific performer, Kurt presented his music, theatre and poetry in a variety of venues from university podiums to experimental art spaces to concert auditoriums to honky-tonk barrooms, always demonstrating that poetry is the language of the heart and speaks to everyone. He was truly delighted to serve on the board of directors of the Society for Phenomenology and Media, an international scholarly organization whose blend of rigorous scholarship and eclectic free thought was a perfect match for one who, Leslie Scalapino remarked, could "hurl a mind beam at full tilt."

If a person's life consists of their actions, then Kurt is a work of art. The food for his art was his great capacity to love. He loved his wife "with everything I possess." He loved his family, his friends, his students, his colleagues and compadres; finally, he loved life, even through times of immense suffering. Years ago, standing on a rooftop in Puebla, Mexico at sunset, looking down on the city as the broiling orange-pink of the sky flung itself against the bell towers, Kurt said, "there's going to be a fiesta. And then this town is really going to blow." A fiesta is not just a party; it recognizes the incontrovertible mingling of sorrow and joy.

Kurt is survived by his brothers, Barton and Bruce and his sister-friends, Lauren and Linda; a multitude of students in the States and Taiwan with whom he walked the path of friendliness and sincerity; his many friends, among them Carolyn, Chris, Diana, Gregg, Robbin and Sue; and his wife, Lisa. All of us miss him dreadfully and mourn our loss. But the joy of having shared our lives with him tempers our grief.


Wild yet tamed

transparent yet opaque

this incarnation

this coming

this coming into being

I left it

I left it all behind me

there isn't anywhere

that isn't this

elongated yet compressed

Remote yet sudden

obscure yet clear

we're alone here realizing

but wait—this is it

Alone only together

written on the wind

yet written in flames

we live & we die

daring yet careful

Moving yet still


while forgetting


only real.

--Kurt Cline
Published in Ithaca Journal on Nov. 8, 2018
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