Victoria poet laureate dies at 95
Nov. 15, 2012 at 5:15 a.m.
Updated Nov. 16, 2012 at 5:16 a.m.
'Summer Morning on Padre Island'
Barefoot, I walk the cool hard-packed sand,
Following a parade of tiny spotted sandpipers,
Whose delicate trail of stitchery
Is instantly erased by the restless sea.
My footprints, too, are carried seaward,
But, in return, the tide casts out some pearly shells,
Wet and shiny from Neptune's chest.
Overhead, the noisy seagulls wheel and plunge,
Delighting in the cool salt spray,
And I catch my breath at the beauty of their wings
Fanned out against the Texas sky.
The curling water nibbles at my toes,
As I stoop to examine a tiny golden starfish
Abandoned by the ebbing tide,
Which the sandpipers seem to chase
And then hastily scurry shoreward
As the playful tide returns.
I still have the starfish, Neptune's discard,
But, to me, a treasure of golden memories
Of a summer morning on Padre Island.
• VISITATION: 6-7 p.m. Friday at Rosewood Funeral Chapel
• SERVICE: 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Victory Cathedral
• BURIAL: Will follow at Catholic Cemetery No. 2
She lived through the Great Depression, served behind the front lines in World War II, was widowed, remarried and a mother to two daughters.
And Mildred Vorpahl Baass, poet laureate of Texas from 1993 to 1995, wrote about it all.
"The world is so beautiful. There is poetry everywhere. And I am from the school of poetic expression that feels poetry should express beauty, should not be base or vulgar," she said in the Stoneflower Literary Journal, Volume 1.
Baass, of Victoria, died Nov. 4 at age 95, still writing poetry, said her daughter, Nancy Baass.
She wrote poems in a variety of styles, from free verse to sonnets, and wrote on multiple subjects from the horrors of war to sea shells on Padre Island.
"That is what poetry she said was all about, was trying to reach people and to express experiences that we all share, and to put it into words that are poetic," her daughter said.
Nancy Baass said they traveled all over Texas and the United States after she was named poet laureate, living up to her mother's slogan, "Have poem, will travel."
"We called it our poetic great adventure," her daughter said. "We went all over Texas - towns we had never heard of."
She said they even bought a Winnebago to make life on the road easier, going as far away as Pennsylvania for Baass to speak.
Carol Sowa, Baass' oldest daughter, said her mother's death will leave a gap in the family.
"She was a wonderful, vibrant person that always had a sense of wonder and excitement for a variety of things in life," Sowa said. "When we went on family vacations, we always had to stop at every historical site ... and explore things."
Budd Powell Mahan, a former president of the Poetry Society of Texas, said Baass, also a member, left her mark on Texas poetry.
"I just clearly remember her at some of the banquets I went to because she was just so exuberant when she would win. She would just jump up and down and run up to the microphone - it was so wonderful," Mahan said.
Baass was expected to go to the society's annual awards banquet Nov. 10, and Mahan said she was missed.
"People just kept speaking tributes to her, it wasn't even planned or anything ... And that just doesn't always happen. We have had really important people die, and it didn't impact members as much as Mildred's passing. I think she meant a lot to a lot of people," Mahan said.
Mahan said Baass never stopped writing poetry and was still involved in the Poetry Society of Texas.
"I think that is why people live to be old, because they don't give up living. They keep thinking about, 'What is the next thing?' And she was always thinking about the next thing," Mahan said.
Nancy Baass said her mother lived up to her goal of spreading poetry throughout Texas.
"I want to encourage and promote poetry in Texas. We live in a great state that has great diversity. Although our state is known for cowboy poetry, we don't want people to think that's the only poetry in Texas. There are other kinds, too," Baass said in a 1994 Advocate article.