Wannermeyer, T. (1997, May 9). In Memoriam: Aaron Kramer 1922 - 1997. Lion’s Voice, pp. 1–2.
In Memoriam: Aaron Kramer 1922 - 1997
by Teresa Wannermeyer
Noted poet and professor emeritus Aaron Kramer, 75 died recently in his home in Oakdale after a brief battle with leukemia. Kramer became a professor of English at Dowling in 1965, and retired four years ago, although he continued to teach part-timeuntil October, when he became ill.
Kramer’s lyric poetry, penned over six decades, struck populist tones, that sometimes tinged with political protest, that adapted well to song. More than 200 of his works were performed and recorded by diverse artists such as Paul Robeson. In poems whose imagery ranged from suburban streets to concentration camps, Kramer remained true to a credo that poetry should rhyme and be accessible to the masses.
In addition to writing his own verse, Kramer translated poetic works from German and Yiddish, was a public reader, compiling more than 100 taped broadcasts, was a pioneer of the poetry therapy movement, and to the people at Dowling College, where he taught English for over 30 years, he was a beloved teacher, friend, and colleague.
His career at Dowling is best summed up by Dave Ring, Director of Residence Life and Student Activities, “Aaron Kramer was Dowling College. He was one of the greatest teachers and mentors we had. People like him give us the right to call Dowling, “The Personal College.”
His students remembered him fondly for his love of beautiful sunsets, his passion for poetry, literature, and teaching, and his devotion to his family. Graduate Student Lydia Cottiers said, “I cannot remember one class where he failed to mention his wife with such fondness, love, and respect. You would think that they were newlyweds. Once during a reading of King Lear he commented how nice it would be to have Cordelia as a daughter. Then he shrugged, smiled, and said, “I already do.”
Senior Linda Scheibel added, “His class was the first class I took when I came back to school. He was so passionate about his teaching that he made the whole college experience a really wonderful, pleasant one for me and others.” Another student remarked that Kramer was, “always encouraging-never discouraging. He was an excellent teacher and a good friend to me serving as both an educator and mentor. It was during that time that I truly found my love of poetry and began writing my own verse.”
Kramer’s own poetry first gained national prominence in a 1944 compilation, Seven Poets in Search of an Answer, and he became a leading resistance poet during the McCarthy era. He also translated German poets, and wrote several academic volumes on early American Poetry. Throughout his career he maintained a keen interest in Yiddish Poetry and brought attention to an early 20th-Century group of Urban Immagrant writers who came to be know [known] as “The Sweatshop Poets.”
David Axelrod, Professor of English at Suffolk Community College, said, “I was a friend and a fan of Aaron Kramers since 1969. He was a great social activist who was so much a part of the labor movement and pretty much the inventor of poetry therapy.” Barbara Donovan, Director of the Live Poet’s Society and Dowling Alumnus added, “Aaron Kramer was a consummate teacher. He was very passionate about poetry, literature, the arts, freedom, and peace. He had a social consciousness that was very rare.”
His colleagues and friends feel the same way. “I knew him for 30 years,” said Dr. James O. Tate, Professor of English. “He was very talented and had a great gift in poetry and prose. It is very sad that he is gone, but he left behind so many accomplishments to be proud of. He was a very committed teacher and we will miss him.”
Dr. William Thierfelder, Assistant Professor of English, who helped Kramer establish “The Aaron Kramer Poetry Contest” said, “What stands out most was that he was a great advocate of me. He supported my candidacy to be hired. He supported my case for tenure in a very generous way. He was also very supportive of the poetry club and tried to promote their cause. With his passing I lost a good colleague and friend.”
Born in Brooklyn, Kramer moved to Manhattan in 1943, and to Oakdale in 1971. He received his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English Literature from Brooklyn College, which he attended from 1941 −1951, and earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University in 1966.
Kramer is survived by his wife of 55 years, Katherine; daughters Carol, and Laura, a sister, Regina Rothman, and two granddaughters.
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Last Modified on January 30, 2012, at 10:54 AM by LPR