Kirk Thomas Robertson
August 16th 1946 – May 1st 2017
Kirk Thomas Robertson, 70, of Fallon, Nevada, died Monday, May 1st at Renown Hospital in Reno, Nevada, after having suffered a stroke. A most beloved husband and father, he was surrounded by his family.
Kirk was born in Los Angeles to Jack Thomas Robertson and Maydee Star Galloway Robertson. He moved around the West before settling in Fallon in 1975. Along the way, he earned a degree in Language and Literature from California State University, Long Beach, where he studied with well-known poet Gerald Locklin. Kirk’s own poetry, as evidenced in the more than 20 published collections of his work, has its roots in the “plainspoken” tradition of Locklin and his close friend Charles Bukowski, as well as in the more formal and minimalist style of Robert Creeley. These esteemed mentors certainly influenced Kirk’s work, but his poems were wholly his own: honestly accessible, as direct and lean as Kirk himself and also inviting and rich—as he most certainly was. His poetry is one of his largest gifts; they invite readers in, ask them to think, question, feel, and respond. Kirk’s literary work truly celebrated the often stark beauty of the American West, how this place is both brutal and tender. Kirk won many deserved accolades for his literary work: in 1981, he was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and in 1994, he was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, just to mention two of his numerous honors. One recognition that Kirk was particularly fond of was his Wormwood Award for the Most Overlooked Book of Note—he had a sly sense of humor, indeed. His most recent book, How the Light Gets In: New and Collected Poems 1969-2014 (Black Rock Press) allows his readers to hold the essence of this brilliant man in their hands.
In addition to his prodigious literary work, Kirk made a full life in the arts, giving his time and energy to a great number of programs and institutions. Founder of Scree magazine and Duckdown Press, Kirk made it his mission to get the work of others published, and he was never too busy to talk about poetry and the arts. He wrote about the visual arts for a number of publications and agencies, including Yellowstone Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Lake Worth, FL), Sheppard Gallery at UNR, Artweek, the Reno News & Review, and his weekly column, “Sounding,” for the Lahontan Valley News. He was also the editor of neon, the journal of the Nevada Arts Council, which was the only state arts publication of its kind and quality in the United States. Having worked in arts administration since 1976, Kirk served the Nevada Arts Council from 1984-1992 as both Director of Individual & Community Programs and Director of Projects. Thereafter he became the Program Director for the Churchill Arts Council, where he was responsible for development, coordination, and fundraising for the CAC’s programs, including the capital campaign for the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of Oats Park School into the Oats Park Art Center/E.L. Wiegand Community Galleries.
In addition to his work with CAC, Kirk was a founding board member of the Nevada Statewide Arts Assembly. In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin wrote this: “I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done. I want to be an honest man and a good writer.” Everyone who knew Kirk, and everyone who will come to know him through his work, knows that he will last, that he always got his work done, that he was an honest man and a significant writer.
Kirk is survived by his wife, Valerie Jean Serpa of Fallon, and by his children with Nila Northsun: Cody WindRiver and his wife Shannon WindRiver and their children Cienna, Mirabel, and Mobby; and his son Jesse WindRiver, all of whom reside in Fallon. He is also survived by his sister, Jill Sloan of Laguna Beach, CA and nephew Matt Sloan and his wife Erin and their children Emmette, Minta Jane and Quentin of Monrovia, CA..
There will be a gathering for his many friends and family at the Oats Park Art Center, 151 East Park Street in Fallon on Sunday, May 7th, from 2-5pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Churchill Arts Council, PO Box 2204, Fallon, NV 89407.