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.



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