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Joan Marie Colby
(01-16-1939 - 08-18-2020)

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 Joan Marie Colby, a poet and writer of the Midwest for nearly all her life, liked to say that she worked “anywhere a poem would strike” – so important to capture a poem in the moment, “like photographing a bird before it flies away.” She died on August 18, 2020, surrounded by her family. She was 81 years old.
She is survived by her children Wendelin (Wendy) Colby (T. Brian Kelly), Terri Colby (Dan Pape), and Benjamin Colby (Traci), as well her grandchildren – Devin, Liam and Aislen Kelly; Daniel and Jeffrey Pape; and Parker Colby; and her beloved German Shepherd Vesta. A native of Chicago, she was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Alan W. Colby, and by her parents, Otho B. Turbyfill and Grace Turbyfill.
Ms. Colby was one of the most prolific poets of her generation. Her work appeared in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, Midwestern Gothic, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, Prairie Schooner and many others. She published 25 books of poetry, including the forthcoming The Kingdom of the Birds (The Poetry Box) and The Salt Widow (FutureCycle Press), the latter of which is a memoir of grief for her husband Alan, who preceded her in death in February of this year.
Throughout her distinguished career, she received numerous awards including two Illinois Arts Council literary awards, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature award. She also won the Kithara Book Prize from Glass Lyre Press for her book Ribcage, and the FutureCycle Press Award for her collection of Selected Poems. In her early career, she served as a writer-in-residence for the Illinois Arts Council, and published columns for the Daily Courier News.
Ms. Colby was equally known for her love of horses. In 1983, she became the editor of Illinois Racing News, a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, where she worked for over 30 years. In her private life, she bred and raised thoroughbred horses on a small farm in Northern Illinois with her husband Alan. She named her first horse Literary Prize, in honor of the poetry award she won that year.
Horses were always a big part of her life and her poetry.
When the Wind Changes

When the wind changes, the horses
Nicker and race across the pasture,
Hooves carving hieroglyphs from dry clay.

They won’t be caught, the wind tells them
How a halterless world beckons the
Fortunate. They dance skittish with notions.

But ages of domestication settle like steel
In their mouths, girth them with patience
Until they pause beneath the trees

Waiting for someone to lead them.


As one critic once wrote of her work – “let Colby take you on a ride, and be prepared to enjoy every minute of it.”

Memorial services will be held at a later date. Laird Funeral Home is in care of arrangements. For information call 847-741-8800 or www.lairdfamilyfuneralservices.com

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