Arlen W. Lazaroff
"The best way to be free
Arlen Wray Lazaroff was a progeny of Central Eastern European ancestry who had migrated a century and a third ago to the North American steppe - greatest prairie on earth - and in this, Arlen knew, more than most, what it was to live as an outsider.
The settlers and descendents of the greater Republican River Valley region, from whence Arlen came, were then, and even today, outsiders to this land, similar in outlook and experience to what Willa Cather wrote of her Virginia childhood in such works as O Pioneers! and My Antonia. In doing so Cather perpetuated a myth about the Central Great Plains embraced by the rest of the world, much as her lesbianism would be shunned as in his time, Arlen's own eccentricity in "being different, you know.”
In their adult lives both Cather and Arlen loved the theatre, music and the play of language, and though in her work Cather reflected upon a happy youth, Arlen, growing up in Alma, was placed in the straitjacket of Ritalin, conformity and intolerance. So as he grew older Arlen did what so many do who love life more than social convention, he withdrew into the larger world.
Arlen worked hard. Things other folks take for granted never came easily for him, but he never gave up. He earned a degree in Library Science from the University of Nebraska/Omaha but could not find a small town library willing to accept him as “an outsider.” Undaunted, he put together small jobs which often ended abruptly, as descendents of the pioneers attacked him “for being different.” Housing problems occurred for the same reason, but finally, with his long-time companion Tony he bought a house in an out-of-the-way village hamlet of Craig, Nebraska, for Arlen so loved small Nebraska towns, becoming an expert on their location and often in many cases, their demise.
It is sad but true that most of America's creative folk are not appreciated, and it is not unusual for them to be attacked for "living like artists," whatever that is supposed to mean. But artists and poets like Arlen continue to work on their art, for it is an intrinsic part of their lives. He took lessons and self-taught himself, molding his work upon the Beat Poets of the post Second World War, the minimalist music of John Cage, and the collage work of the Dadists, among others. He showed his art, he read his poetry aloud, he played music in various short-lived but artistically good bands. He was published in many small magazines and journals across the United States. His music and lyrics were recorded and passed among friends who savored them. Sometimes we had our disagreements, and Arlen would satirize his rancor toward us and others in such work. His poetry was self-published in a series of chapbooks now prized among his artistic colleagues. He traveled throughout the greater trans-Missouri region, and occasionally reached the coasts, spending brief times in such towns as Washington D.C. and New York City. But he always returned to his beloved Nebraska, the roots of his art and life.
Arlen was a true friend, and knew what that word meant. He stood alongside us when others publicly reviled our art and defense of the First Amendment as well as when the medical profession illegally invaded our family. He dug down into his pocket and gave us money when we were destitute, even as he often nearly was. Together across the generations we explored the abuse we had received at the hands of our natal Nebraskan town, and of the spirituality we had managed to survive with, in spite of abuses we received in our home town church. We laughed together, shared experiences, memories, literature, and even cats as we created beautiful moments of sharing in the midst of poverty.
In 1990 we were honored with our artwork being banned alongside Arlen’s by the Fremont Area Art Ass, an event that was statewide news for an entire summer, and was reported upon nationally. While such publicity was something that neither Arlen nor we sought, once it happened, we took humor in the irony of defending freedom of expression from those who feared it most. Years later before the turn of the century our studios received a grant from the state arts council to create our own rural-based website, and Arlen was one of the first artists we asked to join us. Now close to twenty artists from all over the United States are represented, and Arlen will remain a part of it.
In recent years
Arlen was more ill than he let on to his friends,
and he endured a serious of physical, emotional and
financial setbacks. But he always remained positive
and resilient, and had come to accept his life as an
outsider, enough so that when faced with the
decision to live less than he felt was worth a life
well lived, he bravely stared down death and chose
willingly to enter the Spirit World. We will miss
him keenly for the rest of our lives.
Arlen with pictures, friends, poetry, music and art
Grandma and Grandpa Lazaroff's
Arlen and his father, James Lazaroff, Jr.
Pink Raccoon House
The pink house on the north end of a main street gone half dead,
Arlen Lazaroff was a brilliant, inventive artist who produced at least eight books of fantastic poetry. Thank you for 20 years of friendship. I am lucky I knew you. May God give you peace and joy in a place where the music is beautiful.
Michael Hooper (Topeka, KS)
Arlen, Holly Dingman, Harry Dingman, Michael Hooper at Duffy's, Lincoln Nebraska 2005
Arlen was a guy that was very in tune with pop culture. His insights will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.
Bob Garfield (Constantine, MI)
Arlen with Sylvester
I could swing from a star by metal hooks
Made from disassembled body parts
Of my totaled cars
Listening to the last fading strains of a moonshot theme
Played by a warehouse full of robots in my dreams
While my expired date finishes the last notes of a dying song
Where everything went wrong
And the vehicle skidded off the edge
Of a black hole near an iceball planet
And everything froze for a moment in time
And we made it through a smash 45 accident
And landed on the other side of a mirror universe
Where the music was beautiful.
Yes it was accidental, but really
The music was beautiful
On the other side of that smash 45 accident ride
Arlen performing at Kilgore's 1994
Go well, Arlen. I will always remember you well.
Max Monclair (Omaha, NE)
Joe Mette, Arlen and Buck Bowen at Kanesville
BLUE PAGAN HOLIDAY
of Joe Mette,
from Arlen's Uncle Carl's old slides
Quotes from friends originally
appeared on the
Tony and Arlen
at his show at
Poet, artist, musician friend-like a brother for 20 yrs. -gone but never to be forgotten-the fun NE/KS/MO trips, the art & music-the dreams-always young-now forever free & at peace’ Thanks for the wonderful memories dear friend-always you will be close to me in my heart & soul!
Joe Mette (Omaha, NE)
Arlen, Joe and Wiggles, 1994
Arlen with Rhawn York
Arlen: The greatest legacy one can leave is realized in the profound sadness of those whose life you touched. Your family and friends’ grief are a reminder that your life was valued and valuable. May their grief give way to a peaceful acknowledgement of your gift to them, and may your legacy grow with the passing of time.
Greg Efta (Longwood, FL)
Arlen and richard chilton at the
“Now he is there atop the hill upon the prairie,
with miles and miles of earth around –
listening, observing, feeling
the quiet rumblings of the land
and fowl and sky,
and is at peace.”
richard chilton (Rosalie, NE)
Arlen and Margery Coffey, Rosalie
I’ll always remember Arlen as the greatest poet I’ve ever known. He recited his inspiring and insightful words with unabridged passion, and accepted praise with a quiet humility. A true poet and a true gentleman. The world may weep, but the Heavens....they are rejoicing.
Dan Dahlem (Omaha, NE)
Arlen with barbie dolls, taken at his brother Lauren's house in Kearney, November 2004
at the piano far right in
It was an honor and learning experience to read with Arlen. His words and music and art inspired you to think and grow on many levels. Now the poet sleeps, but his words live on forever. As an artist and a person, Arlen was inspiring, always testing the boundaries before a path had been made. I had great respect for his personal commitment and his voice will be missed.
John Giles (Omaha, NE)
Arlen was fascinated by this "Mickey Mouse art" quickly assembled from kids plastic food toys, Kearney Nebraska 2004
THE GOOD POET WAITS!
The good poet waits with his head in his hands,
While Natty does his chatter & his favorites grandstand!
Many are good yes I know-all are there for the show!
Some are nasty & obscene-like a nightmarish dream!
The good poet sits with his sore head in his hand,
Waits in vain-feels not well-he & I can't understand-
Why his name signed up first is ignored by that man-
Who truly loves to grandstand-with his beer in his hand!
The good poet is published-written for many years-tis so,
His poems now in song verse-as in prose-he's gifted you know!
The good poet is my friend-a good man it is true,
Though I'm harsh sometimes-he's like a brother to me too!
His good verses inspire often-new insights into my world-often blue!
The good poet's words will stand-yes I believe I understand,
When their (babble) stuff is long through-his will live on-
Fresh, like new-like his good heart and soul too!
with portrait based upon his grandfather by Coffey,
Winnebago Farm Studio. c1992.
Arlen was a brave man, an artist and a poet. He will
be missed by many friends who loved him.
Arlen was a brave man, an artist and a poet. He will be missed by many friends who loved him.
Margery Coffey (Rosalie NE)
Arlen and frog,
Arlen and frog,
Arlen Ray Lazaroff, 46, died at Omaha
We have lost a great
poet, who produced
He was a
ghost town expert
you Joe Mette for being his friend. You cared for
you Margery Coffey for being his comrade, friend and
lucky that I got to share 20 years with Arlen. His
He taught us many, many precious things.
Good bye, Arlen, our friend, I will miss you so much.