Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. The crenellated castle building on the right is Altgeld Hall, named for the Illinois governor who established the university in 1895. In the high-rise dormitories visible in the distance, Dave taught English classes in a special program called Living and Learning, at the same time that he worked toward the Ph.D. in English.
Prior to arriving in DeKalb, Dave was completely unfamiliar with NIU as a growing university with an expanding graduate program in English. He only knew personally the Chairman, Dr. Charles Hagelman, and the head of Freshman English, Dr. James Mellard, who had both been at Lamar State College during Dave's undergraduate years, and it was through the two men that he and his family moved to Illinois.
Dave's longtime friend Douglas Flaherty, in Malta, Illinois, ca. 1973, helping dig a garden in the backyard of Dave and María's rented duplex. Malta was an idyllic little town of 950 inhabitants, 6 miles from DeKalb.
Doug and Dave had met at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in the summer of 1968, and during the "Love Lust" poem controversy, when Dave was fired from his teaching position, Doug wrote him a letter of support, even though he did not realize that Dave was the same person that he had known at UNM. The two began corresponding, and when Dave and María moved to Illinois, they visited Doug and his wife Jeanie in Oshkosh, where Doug taught at the University of Wisconsin. Doug published some of Dave's poetry in his small magazine, Road Apple Review, and in 1972 issued Dave's Brands as part of Doug's chapbook series from his Road Runner Press. In 1973, it was Doug who inspired Dave to begin his own Prickly Pear Press; Doug also made possible the printing of Dave's The New Breed: An Anthology of Texas Poets, the third publication and the first anthology of three issued under his PPP imprint.
In 1972, Doug's Road Apple Review published Dave's anthology of Chilean poetry as a special issue of the magazine. This marked the beginning of Dave's career as a translator. The publication also led in part to Dave's decision to write his dissertation on the concept of antipoetry as reflected in the work of William Carlos Williams and of Nicanor Parra, the self-proclaimed antipoet, some of whose antipoems are included in the Road Apple Review anthology.
In 1972, Dave and María welcomed to the family their beloved daughter, Elisa, pictured here in their Malta backyard, sassy with her purse and ready to go. Her brother Darío wanted to trade her in for a raccoon.
Darío, Elisa, and María in the backyard in Malta.
Among the faculty members who welcomed Dave to NIU was the fine poet and translator of Japanese Zen poetry Lucien Stryk. Dave would write a poem about the professor entitled "Lucien Stryk at Home," included in his Taking Stock. Unfortunately, Dave says in the poem that Lucien was a Dutch descendant when in fact he was of Polish extraction. Even so, Dave still likes the poem with its description of Lucien smoking his pipe and through it Dave's allusions to the poet's Zen meditations.
Karl Elder, a creative writing student of Lucien Stryk, made contact with Dave about getting together with him to discuss poetry. They began to meet at Dave and María's home in Malta, and on one occasion Karl photographed María. After Dave had issued three volumes of poems by Texans, through his Prickly Pear Press, he published Karl's first collection, Can't Dance and It's Too Wet to Plow (1975). Karl would later see his Gilgamesh at the Bellagio (2007) published by The National Poetry Review Press, his poems included twice in Best American Poetry, and his work featured in the Beloit Poetry Journal, the notable magazine in his Wisconsin birthplace.
Karl Elder's photograph of María in the living room of the Oliphants' rented duplex in Malta, Illiinois, ca. 1971.
Another faculty member who welcomed Dave to NIU was Dr. Arra Garab. Dave would also write a poem about this Armenian-American professor. Dr. Garab was the second Armenian Dave had known in person, and the two inspired his poem entitled "Armenia," included in his Footprints, 1961-1978. The poem is largely about works by Armenian writers William Saroyan and his son Aram Saroyan, as well as the music of Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness. Dr. Garab arranged for Dave's poem to appear in The Armenian Digest, with an introduction by this very gregarious professor. Dave would take Dr. Garab's course on the poetry of William Butler Yeats, in which he emphasized the ideas found in his book, Beyond Byzantium: The Last Phase of Yeats's Career, published by NIU Press.