With openings in English few and far between, Dave was fortunate to find a position at a Black college in Denmark, South Carolina. Voorhees College was established by Evelyn Wright, a determined figure who braved the hostility of white southerners in order to provide higher education to her race. The college is named for a blind New Jersey philanthropist, Ralph Voorhees, and is affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, the administration of the college proved in no way as inspiring as Wright nor as generous as Voorhees, and even engaged in unethical behavior. See Dave's memoir, Harbingers of Books to Come. Dave taught literature and writing courses and served as advisor for Vista, the student newspaper. He started a writers workshop and took a group of students to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to hear a poetry reading by Richard Eberhart. There were many positive developments during the 1974-75 academic year at Voorhees, but Dave would not return, having obtained what was at the time a permanent position at the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico.
Elisa with her dolly on her tricycle, between the family duplex and the parking lot of the faculty housing.
Darío with his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Tyler, who was so understanding and loving. She made Darío, as the only white in the class, entirely welcome and comfortable. He did wonderfully well in the school.
Darío and Elisa with two of Dave's Nigerian students. On the right is Imafedia Okhamafe, Dave's favorite student at Voorhees. Imafedia went on to earn the Ph.D. in English and Philosophy from Indiana University, and became a professor at the University of Nebraska.
María in a sari belonging to the wife of an Indian professor. María had dreamed of wearing a sari, and the Indian wife was happy to loan the dress for this photograph.
Painting of the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico, by Fort Worth artist Bror Utter, 1967. Entitled "New Buildings and Pyramid--Cholula," this work is described in the title poem of Dave's The Cowtown Circle (2014/2016).
Dave and María looked forward to their first year in Mexico. Unfortunately, rumblings soon began to indicate that the faculty would be going on strike against the new president of the University. What had seemed an ideal situation for the couple turned into something of a nightmare. Even so, Dave enjoyed for a time the starting of another student literary magazine, with, prior to the strike, the administration's blessings and financial support. For the first of two issues of the magazine that Dave named Reportaje de la pirámide (Report from the Pyramid), he had Darío draw as cover art the famous pyramid of Cholula, a sacred mound constructed by the natives before the coming of Cortés and the erection on top of it of a Catholic church. Dave also organized a poetry festival, to which the University invited Mexican and U.S. poets. Reading their poems in pairs were: Carlos Isla and Robert Bonazzi; Roberto Vallarino and Douglas Flaherty; Adolfo Castañon* and Anick O'Meara; and Ernesto Moreno Machuca and Karl Kopp. Dave's creative writing students translated the poets' poems into English or Spanish. During the strike Dave kept busy, meeting surreptitiously for a while with two of his students who climbed a fence and met with him in the family's home in the faculty compound. He managed to write a series of short stories he titled "Cowtown Sketches," and proofed his forthcoming collection of poems, Lines & Mounds. After the strike eliminated Dave's Creative Writing Department, he and his family moved to Austin.
*Dave had invited poet José Emilio Pacheco but he declined and recommended Castañón in his place. Dave had met Pacheco in Illinois through Carlos Cortínez; years later, Carlos' daughter, Verónica Cortínez, would quote Castañón in her study of Bernal Díaz del Castillo's Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España.
The contents of the second issue of Report from the Pyramid were devoted to the poetry of the four pairs of poets who read at the poetry festival.
Kurt Van Wilt was one of the creative writing students who had sneaked on campus during the strike in order to confer with Dave about his writing. He would go on to have two outstanding collections of his poetry published by Pointer Oak and distributed by millichapbooks.com: vast self (2015) and Innocence & Awakening (2016). Sadly, Dr. Wilt died in 2016 shortly after his books appeared. He had earned his Ph.D. in England and had begun teaching in 1981 at Saint Leo University in Florida, pictured here, where he invited Dave to give a reading and to speak to his creative writing class circa 2011.
delighted by the lineaments
of dawn, you alighted in this place
of time and space where sleepers mistake
glamour for grace, certificates for sense.
too soon, the bones that beauty wed
succumbed. numb, we huddle in the night
while you flutter upward in the light.
winged sister, bless us who dwell in dread.
This is the home in the faculty compound where Dave and the family lived for the first six months, until the strikers shut down the campus. Since Dave had to continue to teach, while many faculty members were on strike, the administration rented an apartment for the family in Cholula. Classes were held in the nearby city of Puebla. Mexican law allowed for the faculty to occupy the campus, but without their salaries, the strikers, after some six months, gave up the struggle. At the end of the summer semester, the administration paid off the strikers and forced them out. Those like Dave who had continued to teach were also forced to leave, if their departments were eliminated, as his was. The University of the Americas continues in operation to the present day.
Dave and family in front of their home in the faculty compound, with bougainvillaea growing on the wall behind them.
Darío sitting in front of the fireplace featured in Dave's poem, "Before the Fire." See the section on Family & Poetry.
Dave's collection of poems published in 1976 by Thorp Springs Press. A number of poems were written during the family's year in Cholula, in particular Dave's "María's Lamp" and "Confessions of an Imperialist Poet." The cover art is an aerial sketch of Serpent Mound, one of the Indian effigy mounds in Ohio, which are the subject of Dave's title poem on the Nazca lines of Perú and the native mounds of the Midwest.
When Dave and the family arrived in Mexico, it was by train, since he had mistakenly understood from the University that he could not bring a car into the country. Once it seemed clear that Dave might lose his job because of the strike, he and the family flew to Texas where he bought their 1968 Volkswagen bus. María had learned through another faculty family how spacious and convenient the Volks was, with its three rows of seats and its sliding side door. Aside from a beautiful bookcase that María had bought in Cholula, which Dave boarded up and shipped to Texas, the family and all their belongings were crammed into the bus for the trip back across the border. The adventure to and from Mexico is recounted in Dave's Austin: a Poem (2018/20) and in his memoir, Harbingers of Books to Come. The family's faithful Volks was photographed in Austin by Dave's friend Bob Taylor. See “Ode to a ’68 VW Bus,” in Dave's collection The Cowtown Circle.