In remembrance of Mike Tuggle: poet, teacher, friend. 1939-2017

Kelly’s Cove Press mourns the passing of Mike Tuggle on June 18, 2017. During KCP’s first season, 2011, we published his chapbook What Lures The Foxes. We will miss Mike as a poet, teacher, and friend. See below Terry Ehret’s sensitive piece on Mike from the Sonoma County Literary Update, and a poem by KCP publisher Bart Schneider about his friendship with Mike dating back nearly 50 years.


By Terry Ehret

It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of former Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Mike Tuggle. As a poet, a mentor, and a friend, he touched many of us in the literary community. He will be long remembered and deeply missed.

I first met Mike and his second wife, Susan Kennedy, when I began working with the California Poets in the Schools Program in 1991. Over the years, our paths crossed often at poetry readings and literary gatherings, especially during the years he served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate. Then in 2011, Mike’s book of poems What Lures the Foxes was selected for publication by Kelly’s Cove Press, coming out simultaneously with my book, giving us many more opportunities to read our poems together. Mike had a deep appreciation for music and rhythm, which he brilliantly harnessed in his poetry. He had a gentle wisdom, accentuated by his lovely Oklahoma/Texas drawl, and a calming presence I always appreciated.

Mike was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1939, and grew up in West Texas. He lived in Sonoma County from 1981 until his death on June 18, 2017. He taught with the California Poets in the Schools Program from 1971-2003. His publications include Cazadero Poems, co-authored with Susan Kennedy, Absolute Elsewhere, The Singing Itself, What Lures the Foxes, and most recently The Motioning In.

Susan Kennedy wrote this about Mike’s passing:

His last day was a full one, like his Sagittarius nature loved. First to his open mic in Guerneville, then to the Cazadero Farmer’s Market and the General Store, checking in with the lovely ladies. Then a visit from his grandchildren with Grandma Margo before they went swimming at the creek below his cabin. Then watching a movie with Jai, a favorite activity. That was the last time anyone spoke to him. When he was late showing up for Father’s Day dinner at Lilah and Ishi’s, Ishi and the kids drove up and found him, lying on his couch with an incredibly peaceful, profound look on his face. When I asked Jai what movie they had watched he said “It was about an old man who waiting to die and then he did.” He was suffering greatly with all his infirmities and we are ultimately grateful that he has been released from them although we are all grieving very hard, facing the big hole he leaves in our lives.

About poetry, Mike said “A good poem hurts you a little,” and while that is certainly true of Mike’s poetry, there is also a warm, honest, and guileless vision that takes you by the arm and walks you through our common human experiences of loneliness, coupling, uncoupling, grief, and pure animal joy. At the end of this month’s post, I have included two poems from his most recent collection.

Courtesy of Sonoma County Literary Update












Outlaws at the Photo Booth
For Mike Tuggle, 1939-2017

We scored a reading and needed photos.
Mike was thirty-two, I, twenty.
He’d been my mentor since high school.
Left hand at nine o’clock, right at three, he coached me, before I was ready to drive.

I came from a toney block but never had any dough; he drove cab and picked up spare meals,
stood me to Rainer Ales.
Short on authority, I borrowed some of his.

Beside being a curious and companionable slacker, I had little to offer.
I did turn him on the first time,
for which he credited me the next forty-eight years.

We ducked into a photo booth on Market Street
and froze like a pair of peasants dreaming of gangsters.
I’d always suspected I was a charlatan,
and the strip of snaps was indubitable proof.
Mike looked fiercer than the man I thought I knew,
who was kind and spoke a sexy poetry drawl.
And yet, his favorite topic was the void.
Look into it, he dared me. You might find out who you are. I fear my post-adolescent angst
was no match for his classical demons,
but he cheered my budding skill as a bullshitter.
Back out on Market Street, bright sun on grease stains,
girls in miniskirts sauntering by the dollar movie joints,
a wino nursing his pony of Thunderbird,
I awaited Mike’s response:
We’re clearly set, Brother Bart.
Soon as we commit a formidable crime
these outlaw photos will gild our glory.

Bart Schneider
21 June 2017