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Clemens "Clem" Starck

November 30th, 1937 - March 21st, 2024

CLEMENS “CLEM” STARCK died at his home outside Dallas, Oregon on March 21, 2024, due to complications from mesothelioma.

Starck was born in Rochester, New York, November 30, 1937. An accomplished poet and dedicated autodidact scholar, Starck dropped out of Princeton in 1958 and continued his education on the road, riding freight trains and working at a variety of jobs.

Regarding his poetry, The New York Times wrote, “Clemens Starck is an essential plain-spoken poet of work,” and Starck had many jobs from which to draw inspiration: ranch hand in eastern Oregon, a newspaper reporter on Wall Street, a door-to-door salesman, and a merchant seaman. For over twenty years he worked construction up and down the West Coast, as a union carpenter on projects of all kinds, from bridge work in San Francisco and Oregon to custom homes in British Columbia. As a long-time maintenance carpenter at Oregon State University in Corvallis, he was known for his skill at repairing windows and doors.

Starck was a dynamic presenter of his poetry, giving readings to diverse audiences throughout the Western United States and in Europe. His first book, Journeyman’s Wages (Story Line Press,1995), published when he was 58, received the Oregon Book Award for Poetry and the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. He is also credited with being the inspiration for the founding of the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon.

A lifelong lover of languages, he began intensive study of Russian in his early 60s. He traveled to the collapsed Soviet Union twice, serving as the chaperone for Willamette University exchange students. These travels served as inspiration for his second book, Studying Russian on Company Time (Silverfish Review Press, 1999).  He went on to publish four more books of poetry, all of which were gathered in Cathedrals & Parking Lots: Collected Poems, published in 2019 by Empty Bowl Press. His poems have been widely anthologized and appeared in the syndicated column “American Life in Poetry.” Garrison Keillor read several of Starck’s poems on National Public Radio.

Starck was also a passionate film scholar and he watched thousands of eccentric and hard-to-find films. He was especially interested in film noir, silent film, pre-code movies, and Iranian and African films.When he became curious about a specific actor or director, Clem would acquire all their available films on DVD, and then watch the entire oeuvre in chronological order.

In his final weeks, Starck enjoyed the presence and care of his three grown children, Rachel, Daniel, and Deborah, and received a steady stream of friends and family traveling from around the Northwest to pay their respects. He worked to complete a final manuscript of poems, Enjoying the Evening: Last Poems, sent it off to his publisher, and lived to receive the first copy, which gave him enormous satisfaction. He was lucid and in good humor to the end, his remarkable life culminating in a good death.

He is survived by his children, Rachel Starck (spouse Gregory Smith), Daniel Starck, Deborah Pruitt; grandchildren, Amanda Pruitt, Benjamin Pruitt, Alexander Smith, and Zoe Smith; sister Juanita Rodriquez, sisters-in-law Ginger Starck, Jan Glenn, brother-in-law Tom Juster, nephews Edilberto Rodriguez, David Juster, and nieces Maria Rodriguez, Marguerite Rodriguez, and Juanita A Rodriguez.  

He was pre-deceased by his wife Barbara Starck (2012), brother David Starck (2023), brother in law Edilberto Rodriquez Sr (1987), nephew Michael Glenn (2022), and son-in-law Jade Pruitt (2022).

A memorial gathering for Clem Starck will be held in Corvallis on Saturday, May 25, 3-5 pm at the Rotary Shelter in Willamette Park. Friends are invited to come and share Clem’s poems and stories about his life.

We Entrusted Clemens Starck's Care To

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