‘A loss,’ SIU community laments death of professor Jon Tribble

By Keaton Yates and Juniper Oxford

Poet, professor, husband and friend.

Jon Tribble died on Oct. 2 and is mourned by his students, peers, wife and the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus.

Among many things he was a poet, the managing editor of Crab Orchard Review, and he taught at SIU specializing in creative writing.

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In the words of Anne Chandler, an associate professor specializing in early British Literature, “this is a loss.” 

He grew up at Aldergate, a church camp devoted to medical and social services programming, just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas according to his website. He received his bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Arkansas and later an MA and MFA at Indiana University, Bloomington.

With one collection of poems still forthcoming, Tribble released three other collections titled “Natural State,” “And There Is Many a Good Thing” and “God of the Kitchen.”

He is also featured in many anthologies and journals such as “Ploughshares,” “Alaska Quarterly Review” and “Poetry.”

Tribble’s wife, Allison Joseph, an associate professor at the university with a specialty in poetry and creative writing, said she knew Tribble for 30 years and was married to him for 27. She said he was an incredibly loving husband.

“He was goofy and loving,” Joseph said. “He had a great sense of humor. He kept me laughing for 30 years.”

He was the kind of person who defined what he knew by what he didn’t yet know, Joseph said. She said he always wanted to discover and learn new things. His passions were many, she said.

“One of the things that attracted me to him was that he never stopped learning new things,” Joseph said.

Judy Jordan, an associate professor specializing in poetry writing, retold stories of Tribble’s kindness and dedication to his work. 

“Hundreds of people have put stories on Facebook of Jon’s generosity, of how much he loved everyone, of how much he helped everyone with poetry,” Jordan said. “It made me think of the time I was sitting in my office right before the National Endowment of the Arts poetry deadline.”

In this contest, contestants have the chance to win a $25,000 grant, and very few people actually win. Both Tribble and Jordan had applied for this grant, and Tribble offered to help Jordan apply.

“No one ever does that,” Jordan said. “No one ever helps someone else apply for a grant.”

Jordan said nonetheless Tribble insisted he help her, and spent hours working with her to apply. 

“That’s Jon’s generosity right there,” Jordan said. “This is Jon in a nutshell. He’d do anything for anyone.”

Chandler said Tribble made the university a better place with his art and his published works.

“He made [the university] a channel, a conduit, for great art,” Chandler said. “I mean, that’s what he did through this journal.”

Joseph and Tribble founded the Crab Orchard Review, a nationwide journal that started at SIU. Recently, he was the managing editor and his wife is the current editor-in-chief.

In the Crab Orchard Review, various writers come together to make one book. Tribble was known for his endless encouragement of writers and students, Joseph said. He was said to be very excited to tell writers that they had been published or won a contest.

“It was a labor of love because he wanted to get other people’s poems out into the world,” Jordan said.

Tribble was a poet, he dedicated a lot of his time to the Crab Orchard Review and the Crab Orchard Series of Poetry, which are individual books of poems published through SIU press.

“He was also an amazing teacher,” Joseph said. “He taught both undergraduates and graduates in the English department. He taught poetry and creative writing classes. He taught editorial internships. He taught literature.”

He won many awards, although he would never mention them, Joseph said.

Some of the awards Tribble won include the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize from Sara Lawrence College and the Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council. In 2016 he won the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize Competition.

Abigail Wheetley, a friend and former student of Tribble’s, said in a Facebook tribute that Tribble never let a compliment go unreturned.

“It’s a world without Jon this morning, but a better world that he was here, for so many of us,” Wheetley said.

Joseph said Tribble spent most of his time getting other people published and getting other people in print. 

“Jon was one of the most generous and loyal and kind and loving people you would ever meet,” Joseph said. 

Tribble leaves a legacy of poetry and love, which live on through his works. From the closing stanza of The Divine:

“–as the final note possesses Sarah Vaughan, possesses us,

documents the sound we should define as pain,

as regret, as love and loss, as human.”

Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.

Staff reporter Juniper Oxford can be reached by email at [email protected].

Contributing Writer Brandi Courtois can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Brandi_Courtois.

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