December 6, 2017
The University of Arizona Libraries named poet, scholar, and Sun Tracks Series Editor Ofelia Zepeda this year’s Library Legend. The Libraries feted Zepeda with a dinner at the Arizona Inn last month, where friends and colleagues gathered to recognize Zepeda’s lifetime contributions to letters, learning, and libraries.
Shan Sutton, Dean of Libraries, said of Zepeda, “When I think of Ofelia Zepeda, I am most impressed with her ability to transcend time. She seems to blend past and present seamlessly, summoning historical Tohono O’odham wisdom to provide context for her astute observations of life today.”
Among her many honors, Zepeda is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and she is the author of two acclaimed collections of poetry and a guide to Tohono O’odham grammar, proudly published by the University of Arizona Press.
Kathryn Conrad, Director of the University of the Arizona Press, said, “I am awed and gratified by Ofelia’s vision to preserve language and culture through bilingual literature, poetry, stories and songs. For her deft leadership, her sound editorial judgement and her ability to see into the future, we owe Ofelia a deep debt of gratitude. Ofelia, thank you.”
Previous Library Legend honorees include University of Arizona Press authors and supporters Bernard L. “Bunny” Fontana, Jim Griffiths, and John and Helen Schaefer.
For this year’s event, Zepeda read her poem “The Way to Leave your Illness,” which shares the poet’s recognition and gratitude for the important and healing work of libraries and learning.
The Way to Leave Your Illness
By Ofelia Zepeda
If you have an illness that won’t go away,
take a journey.
When you get there, leave it.
Place it on a rock; throw it into moving water;
bury it. Throw it into the wind.
Let it go.
Leave it there for others.
She had been sick for many days.
In her frustration she remembered
what her grandmother used to say,
“Take it far away and leave it there.”
She walked to the other end of campus
toward the library.
In her mind she left the discomfort, ache, pain, there.
She walked back, comforted,
knowing she didn’t bring it back with her.
Her illness is now hidden in the stacks.
Perhaps it is temporarily in periodicals.
Or archived in Special Collections.
or perhaps in fiction, no longer real.
From Where Clouds are Formed copyright 2008 Ofelia Zepeda