Volume 3, Number 2

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 3.  Number 2

For a signed, personalized copy of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

For Jeanne’s news see www.JeanneMurrayWalker.com

         What I Learned In Alaska

Another shooting spree, violent lack of trust between citizens and police, an election campaign marked by lies and incivility–turn on the news and witness the horror, 24/7.  It’s corroding friendships, dividing families. It’s waking many of us up at night.  Because suddenly everything seems upside down, unpredictable, catastrophic.  Who can bring order out of this chaos?  In November we will go to the polls to elect a new leader of the free world.  A crucial choice.

Indeed, I wonder what could be more significant?  The fact that several of my friends are dying this fall?  The fact that the day I post this will be the hundredth anniversary of my mother’s death?  Or that sunlight is falling like bars of gold onto the maple in our back yard as I write to you?

I’m looking for some perspective, some escape from gun violence, from a political drama so relentless that if it could, it would imprint itself on the sky and trees and rocks.  I’m looking for relief precisely so I can put things in perspective and maybe in some way help.

Early in September, I was lucky enough (call it blessed) to teach for 10 days in Alaska bush country, most of the days at a fish camp on Harvester Island.  No phone, no radio, no airstrip, no ads, no flush toilets.  I walked under arthritic-looking, gale-battered trees.  I stood above the ocean in a field of grass cowlicked by the wind. I followed the flower of my flashlight down a rough path at 2 a.m. to the outhouse.  I pulled on a fleece against the cold, read poetry, and talked with women and men who had gathered from all parts of the globe to do precisely that.  Writers.  We were quiet together.

What did I learn?  I learned to see God’s creation again.  I learned to wake up remembering that this day will not return.  It’s mine to notice, pay attention to, now or never.  I learned to detach from the addictive news cycle and from election politics long enough every day to watch the great death-defying act of trees unfolding in this very fall, as they head into winter.  I look up and see leaves crying out their colors (red! purple! yellow!) like vendors about to go out of business.  To intentionally make space for paying attention to the moment has freed me, at least for a while, to see more clearly that I have power–at least enough power to change the place where I live. Yesterday I signed up to help distribute food at a local food cupboard.

                  PLENTY

Sunlight is breaking into colors around me
like a catastrophe I can neither
shake nor explain–
how the sun’s gold finger
dusts the tops of maples.
How the maples’ articulate roots
wrestle wtih dumb earth.
How our houses, breaking free of foliage,
stare candidly at one another’s
naked bodies.  Time washes all the bridges
out, dismembers the maples.
Our days expire like
theirs.  We check and recheck
our watches and pay costly tickets
anyway.  Yet look
what a little thing can defeat time.
I made this from bits of salvage–
my own breath
and a few second-hand words.

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

 If you have time and the inclination, leave a review of HELPING THE MORNING
on Amazon.  Here’s a link:  http://amzn.to/2cJ7iDp

WHAT I’M READING IN THE SHADE GARDEN

I’ve just finished reading The Lightning Thief with Sophia, my oldest grandchild.  She tells me it’s the most famous kids novel in the world right now.  We’ve been texting one another about it.  I’ve also been dipping into Jane Hirschfield’s Beauty and I’ve just finished Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.  I always look forward to hearing what you’re reading–which often, then I, too, read.

What will you find if you open The Geography of Memory?  An excerpt:

My heavy navy blue 10th grade world history book left a big black hole between the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Early Modern Period.  For a test, I had to memorize the fact that this dark space existed before the Italian Renaissance.  Then in graduate school I discovered that after the Dark Ages were over, Petrarch went around telling people that they were lucky to be living at the beginning of a renaissance. He’s the one who named the Long Forgetting that preceded the 1300’s “the Dark Ages,” thereby making it tangible and significant. It’s no longer politically correct to call any historical period “the Dark Ages,” because the metaphor of darkness implies that nothing went on.  Plenty went on, as anyone who thinks about it will realize.  People were born and they died.  Rulers rose and fell.  The crop either fed the children or it didn’t.  It’s just that during the Dark Ages, fewer scribes and historians wrote down the details of what was happening.  History has everything to do with memory.  If we don’t write down what we’ve witnessed, we will forget it and then lose it entirely.  We will be encouraging a new Dark Ages.  I am trying to record in these pages what I witnessed.

To pick up a copy of HELPING THE MORNING;  NEW AND SELECTED POEMS go to http://bit.ly/1412FzV.   You can find THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY at http://amzn.to/1X133qG
Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

Volume 2, Number 3

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 2. Number 3

CONSIDER GIVING A BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS: EASY TO ORDER; GREAT READING ALL YEAR.  For signed, personalized copies of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

A couple of weeks ago she arrived, this new book called AMBITION.  She is shy and skinny and extremely proud of herself in her classy blue and red outfit.  But you can tell, from the scarlet A she wears and from her sidelong glance, that she’s self conscious.  And no wonder.  This book of essays, as the cover points out, examines the dark side of ambition.  “Questions about ambition are more urgent now than they have ever been.  What is ambition, exactly, and is it okay to be ambitious?”

This book, which Luci Shaw and I have been editing for several years, is the sort of problem kid who “outs” her parents in a crowd, making them look strident and pushy.  After all, trying to sell a book about ambition takes a certain amount of ambition.

But the truth is, these essays are remarkable and I can’t wait for you to read them.  The ten writers address questions about ambition in a variety of ways and in wonderfully different voices. The pieces range from personal musings to thought experiments and more formal reflections.  The writers raise and reflect on the question that I believe lies at our most intimate core of being and at the very center of our culture.

Want to see a picture of the problem child?  Here’s a link:  http://imagejournal.org/ambition/

And here is a confession:  without Dain Trafton, Greg Wolfe, and Lynda Graybeal, there would be no AMBITION.  Thanks, guys.

PLENTY

Sunlight is breaking into colors around me
like a catastrophe I can neither
shake nor explain–
how the sun’s gold finger
dusts the tops of maples.
how the maple’s articulate roots
wrestle with dumb earth.
How our houses, breaking free of foliage,
stare candidly at one another’s naked bodies.
Time washes all the bridges out, dismembers
the maples, expires like a parking meter.
we check and recheck our watches and
pay costly tickets anyway.
Yet look what a little thing can defeat time.
I made this from bits of salvage–
my own breath
and a few second-hand words.

Order at:   http://bit.ly/1412FzV

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

WHAT I’M READING BY THE FIREPLACE

All the Light We Cannot See is a novel of astonishing skill and power.  I have also been reading Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John Phillip Santos and Margaret Livingstone’s fascinating Vision and Art:  The Biology of Seeing.  When you get a chance, let me know what you’re reading.

An Excerpt from The Geography of Memory

Worrying about money allowed us to enjoy vivid wishes.  I longed for a brown heather sweater from the Sears catalog.  My mother hoped that I would forget the sweater and just pass geometry so I could graduate from high school.  My brother yearned for a shortwave radio.  The longing beneath all our other wishes, like the bottom box in a stack of Christmas gifts, was the home that our mother would stay healthy and keep working so she could pay the mortgage.  We kids wanted that just as much as our mother did.  Nowdays the theory is that you shouldn’t let children worry about the big griefs afoot in the adult world.  But it was probably better for us to know what was at stake than to be forced to guess.  I, for one, would have woven nightmares much scarier than the truth.

Order at:   http://bit.ly/1r8I2KC

Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

Volume 1, Number 2

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 1. Number 2

For a signed, personalized copy of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

I wonder from time to time, how did I get into this business?   How improbable, that I should have spent my life writing poetry.   Poetry doesn’t appear to make much happen–though in the last several years there has been news that Isis has begun recruiting followers with poetry, which is both frightening and fascinating.

I don’t think poetry could do that in this culture.  What it can do is this:  push back against the hectic pace of our lives.  As a relief to the increasingly public, appearance-driven world of social networking, it offers the possibility of reflection.  Poetry can give voice to broad and deep personal experience in a way no other form can.  I’ve seen poetry change the lives of twenty-year-olds.

There’s something else.  By reading poetry, a person can learn how to read metaphor better, because poetry provides a way of saying one thing and meaning another.  As Robert Frost pointed out, people never say exactly what we mean.  We talk in metaphor and “hints and indirections”.  The philosopher, Steven Pinker, argues that metaphor lies at the heart of all human thinking.  And the linguist, George Lakoff  has shown how metaphor dominates political speech.  Frost said that unless you’re at home in metaphor, you aren’t safe anywhere, because you’re not at home with figurative values. Of course, at the heart of poetry lies metaphor.

If you’d like to slow down and take a few minutes to read poetry, consider ordering  Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems.   It is available from many book stores and from Word Farm Press:  http://bit.ly/1412FzV

Warm best wishes for a fine fall!

Jeanne

ART

       Signs of use, of age, of damage are esteemed
         as part of the life of Japanese scrolls.
         –Program, Koetsu Exhibition, Philadelphia
Museum of Art

On this scroll I see new tracks
crossing winter fields, cold rain,
river cutting through plains,
night falling.  Let me not ask for
untrampled snow.  May I love
the moon, no longer full,
but worn to a slice.  Bless fragments,
corners, crumbs, and spare parts.
Let them remind me of what
they were, unbroken.   May I
stop listening for the wild steps
of morning, which will not scrape
my sill again.  I will praise in the rain
what remains of the afternoon.

From Helping the Morning,
Originally published in Poetry

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

WHAT I’M READING IN THE SHADE GARDEN

I finished Home, a novel by Marilynne Robinson, last week and immediately began reading it again.  It’s that good.  For prose, I’ve been navigating around in Renyolds Price’s A Common Room.  And poetry:  I’ve just ordered seven young Polish poets, hoping to get to know the generation after Milosz and Symborska.  I’ll keep you posted.   And when you get a chance, let me know what you’re reading.

An Excerpt from The Geography of Memory

Far away, as if through a mist, I hear my husband calling.  Swimming up from a dream, I roll over, open my eyes.  He’s leaning on one elbow in bed, facing me, softly repeating my name.  In the milky gloom, I can barely make out his figure.
“What?” I say.  We’re in Paris in a hotel room.  That much I remember.  I push further down into the warm sheets.  I don’t get back to sleep easily.
“I think something’s happened to your mother,” he says.
Sitting bolt upright in the dark, I watch as my husband swabs the floor for his phone.  There’s a cold breeze leaking in the closed windows. I pull the duvet around my shoulders and press the stem of my watch, which lights up the dial.  It’s two thirty a.m.

Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

Volume 4, Number 1

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 4. Number 1

For a signed, personalized copy of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

Here we are, applauding love again in February, the fiercest, coldest month of the year.  You would think we would celebrate Valentine’s Day in the spring when primroses burst open and light lengthens and love comes easily.  I don’t know what you think about your weather, but temperatures in Philadelphia are plunging to the teens, wind gusts often reach 50 miles-an-hour, and icicles hang from our house like filthy beards. I, for one, am sick of winter.  So much for sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

And yet isn’t there something fitting about honoring St. Valentine in February, when the weather is so intemperate?  Love begins as the most heady pleasure, but it eventually turns into the most essential and demanding task.  As St. Paul pointed out, without love, life turns hollow.  It sounds like the chink of a cash register, or the tinkle of yet another marketing phone call.

I’ve been thinking about Adam and Eve, the first lovers.  They didn’t choose one another, exactly.  God created Adam because He was lonely.  And then, with typical insight, God noticed that Adam must be lonely, too.  When Adam woke up to see the gorgeous woman God had created, he must have fallen deeply in love.  But eventually Eve began to get on his nerves.  When Adam blamed her for eating the apple, for them the weather turned to February.

They both had to start over, learning to love what they had been given.

“Adam’s Choice,” the poem from Helping the Morning that I’m sending this month, praises the power that can overcome raging winds and cold angers.  I hope you will celebrate the with me the strange durability of love.

Consider giving your beloved some poetry for Valentines day.  Here’s a link to Word Farm Press  http://bit.ly/1412FzV

Wishing you love in February.

Jeanne

ADAM’S CHOICE

It must have been a windy night like this,
the trees swaying and hissing,
tossing their hair in desperate gestures,

when he broke out of the spell
and realized it wasn’t fair.
He never chose her.

When he woke up, she stood before him
like a bright goblet filling up with water.
He was thirsty..  How splendid

it can be to drink when you’re thirsty,
was what he thought.  He was that young.
Now he realizes there is a stain

spreading on his heart, that the name
she gave the Yak chafes him
and she sings off key.  He never chose

her.  He’d like to grab his knife
and cut off her song,
but rain is slanting down,

and she is running toward him, her eyes terrified
under the bending, cracking maples,
and a curtain pulls back in him,

and he takes her into his arms
and begins the long journey toward
learning to love what he’s been given.

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

Books I’m Devouring by the fire

while the shade garden is locked in ice:   Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, the wonderful short stories of Uwem Akpan, Say You’re One of Them, and with my students, the selected poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.  What are you reading?  I’d love to hear.

An Excerpt from The Geography of Memory

Remembering Past Selves

I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon, looking at our backyard where the fall perennials are blooming scarlet and yellow. Philadelphia is a place I could not have imagined on that evening in Lincoln, Nebraska, as I listened to “Purple People Eater” and did my algebra. As the sun goes down, the azaleas and rhododendrons and lilacs create intimate shapes against the bluish haze of dusk. I am older than my mother was back then. Soon I will be old enough to be the grandmother of that child—myself, a long time ago. If I could, I would put my hand on her shoulder and tell her what I know now.

Out the window of my study, in the purple of sunset, I watch a rabbit emerge from an azalea bush, stitch our backyard, and disappear into the English ivy by the back fence. He’s tiny, just shedding his baby fluff for the speckled camouflage of adult fur. He must have been born last spring. Frost on the grass, tender young lettuce, a juicy carrot—the images he sees and remembers must be brief, instinctual. I have a very different kind of memory than he does. It includes poems I dashed in haste two decades ago when my child was still so young I could lift him off the couch onto my lap. It includes the recollection of myself as an earnest, believing child, and the story of myself as a teenager, damned and trudging the streets of Lincoln after dark. These are stages in a journey— the child, the disillusioned teenager, the mother, the poet, the grandmother—stations on the way toward learning what it means to be human. They are not unlike the many mothers who lived inside mother.

Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

Volume 2, Number 2

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 2. Number 2

For a signed, personalized copy of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu

Helping The Morning

New and Selected Poems

By Jeanne Murray Walker

Today marks the launch for Helping the Morning:  New and Selected Poems--the book with the now famous cat on the cover.  A new and Selected Volume is a remarkable milestone in any poet’s career and I am deeply grateful!   The volume contains about two thirds of the poems from my previous seven books, most of which are now out of print.  Best place to find it?  At the Word Farm Website:  http://bit.ly/1mHxoWR .  If you’d like a signed copy, email me at jwalker@udel.edu

We’ll be celebrating the book launch by inaugurating a new reading series at 7:30 pm on October 23 at The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington.  Please join me there if you can.  It’s at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE.  Phone:  302.571.9590.

Check my website at JeanneMurrayWalker.com for other readings throughout the year.

                         GIFT

For a hundred miles
the fields have worn
beards of ugly stubble
and night is falling
and you can’t find
a lover, not on AM or FM,
and the hand at the toll booth
wears a glove
so as not to touch you.
You pay for yourself,
then for the car behind you,
so someone pushing headlights
through the heavy dark
will feel luck
go off like a Roman candle,
and she’ll give a car length
to the maniac who cuts her off,
and you, there in your lonely bubble,
can think of each tail light,
each anonymous fender
as a friend.

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

Books I’m Devouring In the Shade Garden

The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, Arcadia by Lauren Groff, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Amazon-Hachette War

As many of you probably know, books published by Hachette, including my memoir, The Geography of Memory, are being held hostage by Amazon.  Because Hachette has refused to agree to Amazon’s demand for a greater percent of ebook sales, Amazon has raised the price of Hachette books and is discouraging their sales by slow-walking their delivery. If you’d like to read more about this dangerous feud, check out The Atlantic Monthly’s thought provoking article:  http://theatln.tc/1hezNtw

I’m boycotting Amazon, ordering everything through alternative websites like Alibris. I invite you to join me. Alibris will get TGoM to you in a couple of days.

Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

Volume 1, Number 1

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker
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Volume 1, Number 1

For a signed, personalized copy of the book, email jwalker@udel.edu

The Geography of Memory

A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s

A memoir by Jeanne Murray Walker

Welcome to my quarterly newsletter.  I’m writing to you from my office as I look out at my husband’s bird feeder (with cardinal) and beyond it, our shade garden.  Thank you for your love and support since the publication of Geography.  I look forward to getting to know more of you at readings of the book and other events in the upcoming months.  If you can join me at one or more of them, please do.  Stop by afterward to talk, if you have time.  And if you know someone who needs Geography, consider dropping by your local, independent bookstore to pick up a copy.

Please join me to hear a reading or participate in a discussion:

On June 4, at 9:15 at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute June Lecture Series in Wilmington, Delaware.  For more information phone 302-573-4417.

On June 17 at 10 a.m. tune in to hear Rabbi Richard Address and me talk about The Geography of Memory on WWDB 860AM “Boomer Generation Radio”.  Archived at www.Kendal.org.

I’ll be talking with friends on August 16th at the Lewes Writers Conference (Lewes Public Library) about creating voice in memoir.

Join me on October 23, 2014 for a reading from The Geography of Memory at The Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE.

From Amazon Reviews

It’s an astonishing gift when a writer helps you see this clearly, this effortlessly.

Jeanne Murray Walker’s book will transform the national conversation on Alzheimer’s.

This is a wonderful book, extremely well-written, funny, poignant.

I’m a guy who avoids all the depressing books selected by my wife’s book club. So when I saw Alzheimer’s in the subtitle, my first reaction was uh oh. But I started reading Memory and couldn’t put the book down.

In spite of the weightiness of the issue, it is a page-turner to the end. In short, this book is a gift.  Read it, and then give it to someone you love.

We’re creating a shade garden under the trees in our back yard.  Great place to read! 

Books I’m Devouring Now:

Children’s Hospital by Peggy Anderson a best seller in 1985 and still a fabulous read.  Dear Life by Nobel Prize winner, Alice Munro, and The Shadow of Serius by W. S. Merwin.

Coming in the next edition of this Newsletter:

News about Helping the Morning:  New and Selected Poems from Word Farm Press.

Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu

http://amzn.to/1kHNpgN

 

Nailing Up the Home Sweet Home

“What a splendid first book!  Jeanne Murray Walker’s poems ring true and wild as currents of wind inside a storm cloud.  They never fail in their allegiance to the life of complex feelings inside her and inside us.”
Richard Hugo

“Walker does not employ comfortably plain speech but something trickier, something more nearly the music of verse, though it has a certain tartness that keeps you off balance, harpsichord rather than piano. This book has the compulsiveness of fiction which makes us want to turn the page, for which we submit ourselves to the rise and fall of the largest emotional rhythms.”
Dave Smith, The American Poetry Review

Fugitive Angels: Poems

“Fugitive Angels cunningly recalls, like a mother reminding children it is time to eat, the creeds by which we pretend we live.  These creeds are set against more acceptable fictions, and more acceptable rationalism.  The fine line between the two is the space in which Walker locates her work.  These poems fit.  They bend and flex.  They are funny, punning, and clear-headed.” 
Peggy Phelan, The Women’s Review of Books

“Jeanne Murray Walker’s second book is long, substantial, energetic.  She is both story-teller and metaphysician.  The best of these poems have the plain radiance of Walker Evans photographs.”  
Jane Cooper, Washington Post Book World

Coming Into History

“What an exhilarating book this is, full of passions and wit.  Any reader who thinks nothing more can be said about birth and a child’s new life has a stunning surprise coming.  Jeanne Murray Walker’s poems connect us with our past and our future; they shower us with the riches of the world.”
Lisel Mueller

“With Coming into History Jeanne Murray Walker takes her place among the best poets of her generation.  Her fecund and generous imagination embraces the commonplace and the bizarre with empathy and dramatic power.”
-Daniel Hoffman

A Deed to the Light

“She has the timing and wit of a great comedian and the intense, quirky symbolism of a prophet.”
Image Update

“Underlying the overall intensity of the collection are . . .the startling juxtapositions of images and sudden metaphors. . . . But she never loses the familiar touch, the honest voice.”
The Midwest Quarterly

“Her great genius is her use of metaphors. . .  Toward the end of the book, the poems seem to step out of their narrative constraints, as interesting as their stories are, and become pure metaphor.” 
Thom Satterlee, Christianity and Literature