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Remembering Doug Rutledge – Poet, Ambassador, Advocate, Host, Mentor, & Friend

Doug Rutledge. Photo courtesy of Randi Cohen.
Recently, OPA lost one of its own, Doug Rutledge, a poet and scholar who had a lasting impact on all who knew him. His poetry and reviews have appeared in Chautauqua, River Teeth, Rattle, Asheville Poetry Review, The Journal, Quiddity, Third Coast, Southwestern American Literature, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Common Ground Review, Jabberwock Review, Harvard Review online, and Lumina. He taught at Capital University, worked at Jewish Family Services, owned and managed a book store with his wife Rebecca, coordinated the Peripatetic Poets reading series in Columbus, and served as President of the Ohio Poetry Association. Below, we have gathered the sentiment of those poets who crossed paths with Doug, expressed by a few who worked with him in the poetry community. More about Doug, including examples of his fine poetry, can be read at his website:

"Doug served as OPA President from 2008 to 2010, and he and his wife, Rebecca, graciously hosted OPA’s business meetings in the Areopagitica Books store. Doug’s efforts to connect OPA members to well-published, highly respected poets, especially those who worked primarily as educators, helped to bring a greater emphasis on craft to the organization’s programming. He also re-envisioned the newsletter by including articles on poetic analysis and reviews. I served with him as a contributing newsletter editor and then as OPA secretary, laying the foundation of my involvement with the organization. He was a kind, generous man and one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I will miss him greatly."
– Chuck Salmons

"To be sure, Doug Rutledge was a tall man and handsome too – but he was soft spoken with a gracious demeanor, in other words, Doug was a true gentle man. My first encounter dates back to 2003 when he and his wife breathed life into Areopagitica, their vintage and antiquarian book shop, a place that turned into a neighborhood hub, a community gathering place. None other but its proprietors, Doug and Rebecca, extended that warm welcome beyond creed and all else, turning the back of their store into a center for writers' groups, poetry readings, music sessions, and coffeehouse gatherings. To expand on a quote by fellow Clintonville resident Bill Cohen who remarked about Areopagitica upon its closing seven years later that it has a body and a soul – so does Doug; while his body has died, his soul lives on in our fond memories of the voice of this poet, his advocacy of the craft of writing, his passion about the creative impulse, and his leadership of the Ohio Poetry Association (OPA). The OPA is so much the richer of having found in him a dedicated supporter and past president who remained active and true to the cause to his very end. Not even half a year ago, I had the privilege to aid him in his invitational grant proposal for poets Angie Estes and Mark Irwin during National Poetry Month. Doug, eloquently but ever so humbly, impressed upon the Greater Columbus Arts Council that National Poetry Month would be well served by their workshops and readings. And in April, there he was, introducing both poets to the audience…"
– Susann Moeller

Three OPA presidents: Mark Hersman (left), Doug Rutledge (center), and Chuck Salmons
at the book launch for
A Rustling and Waking Within in 2017.
"As I sat in the backyard of Bill and Randi Cohen during the beautiful memorial service, they held for Doug last week, I imagined seeing his statuesque frame standing in the shadows and hearing his melodious baritone in the breeze. What a gracious man Doug was. I first met him twenty years ago when I moved to Columbus. He invited me to critique sessions where he, Chuck Salmons, and I sat on living room chairs in the front window of Areopagitica Books and talked craft. I was appreciative to connect with local poets and to connect with Doug, a poet with such lively, professorial ways. I always found his poetry inspiring in its depth and sophistication. Just last year, when he invited me to be a feature in the Peripatetic Reading series, he not only granted me the opportunity to use that time as a book launch, but also offered to write a most generous blurb for my new collection. I am grateful for his friendship, mentorship, and most of all, the way he walked his talk as an impassioned world citizen."
– Rikki Santer

"Doug and I, who knew each other from the bookstore Areopagitica, became especially good friends when, last winter and spring, I was able to meet and bring him home after chemo treatments. Though he was often terribly tired and in pain, he was always happy to talk–about poetry, of course, but also about history, politics and language. He wanted to improve his French. He also continued to read seriously, Vergil’s Aeneid, for instance. Of his death, I think of Doug as sliding quietly into the sea, and I am very, very sad."
– Craig McVay

"My husband and I were introduced to OPA during trips to the Areopagitica Book Store which were highlighted by brief but always meaningful encounters with one of its proprietors, Doug. We loved to come early to the meetings to browse in the bookstore and return home with one o the other treasure. We both appreciated Doug’s emphasis on the craft of poetry in the workshops. During my online teaching in nursing, I am referring students in service learning projects involved with Somali refugees to Doug’s insightful book: The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away. And so, Doug lives on, beyond the confines of his life."
– Sharon Mooney

"I will always remember the moment Doug asked me to serve as Vice President of the Ohio Poetry Association. It was a great honor to work closely with him and see the organization thrive under his leadership (2008-2010). Guided by a sound vision, he invited well established Ohio poets to share with our members their knowledge through poetry readings and workshops. He inspired me as a poet and friend to read more American, British, and world literature to bring insight to and deepen my own poetry. He served as an inspiring example when I witnessed how his poetry grew and transformed through his MFA studies with Angie Estes and Mark Irwin. I was very sad when I learned of his death. He touched the lives of so many in the poetry community. I miss him."
– Deborah Strozier


  1. So sad to find out about his passing. I was hoping he and my daughter would be able to meet him. I believe he is the biological grandfather to my daughter. Now we will never know. This makes me very sad for her. She is articulate, intelligent, loves life, loves to read, compassionate, and has so much zest for learning, and life. Rest peacefully, beautiful man we never got to meet.

  2. He was one of my English Literature professors at the UW-Madison in 1987, and a wonderful teacher with a great sense of humor.


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