Beatlick Joe Speer’s spirit soars
January 27, 2011
The following appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News.
LAS CRUCES – “Beatlick” Joe Speer, writer and editor of a poetry journal that attracted a worldwide fan base, died Tuesday in hospice care in Albuquerque. He was 62.
Speer, who, with Wayne Crawford, was profiled in a Jan. 23 SunLife feature about poets’ courageous and creative attitudes in the face of catastrophic illness, was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer on Nov. 19.
“Beatlick Joe has left the building. He went out with style and panache,” said Pamela Hirst, coeditor of the Beatlick News and Speer’s longtime “soulmate and life partner.”
In a mid-January phone interview, Speer was philosophical about his life journey.
“I’m not upset. It’s not really for me to decide when I come and go. Those decisions are made by some other forces and it’s out of my control. You never know how long you have, how many miles you’re going to log on this road trip. When you’re ripe, they pluck you,” Speer said.
“I’d hoped Joe would have lived long enough to hold a copy of his new book in his hands,” Hirst said.
The compilation of Speer’s writings, “Backpack Trekker: A 60s Flashback,” went to the printer this week and will soon be available on amazon.com, Hirst said.
She expressed gratitude that “so many people are coming together to honor Joe. I know how loved he is. I am the lucky woman who got to live with him for 22 years.”
Speer, a New Mexico State University graduate, was born Oct. 24, 1948, in Albuquerque. He and Hirst have largely
been based in Las Cruces in recent years, but also lived in Tennessee, helping Hirst’s mother in the last days of her life, and have spent a lot of time on the road and house sitting for friends.
They’ve continued to distribute print and online versions of their poetry and arts newsletter, “Beatlick News,” and until recently were taking part in poetry readings and literary events throughout the United States.
His poetry journal, Speer said this month, “was what we really enjoyed doing. It really connected me with a lot of writers.”
Chronicles of Speer’s final months, “Pamela’s Journal,” updates on Speer’s book and what Hirst said will be the last edition of the Beatlick News are accessible at www.
Hirst said a tribute to Speer is planned at a Downtown Ramble Open Mic session at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Rio Grande Theatre on the Downtown Mall. A memorial is also planned at New Mexico State University Library at a date to be announced. Contributions in Speer’s memory may be sent to Hospice.
In addition to Hirst, Speer’s survivors include his brother, Paul A. Speer, and a nephew, Aaron Avery, both of Nashville.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450.