Taking my work out into the world delights and scares me. You’d think I were 7 instead of 71! (Or maybe a 7-year-old would be braver). I’m happy to return to my homeland, DeWitt, Iowa, for an event at Crossroads Inspired Living & Garden Cafe on Nov. 22—the Saturday before Thanksgiving. We’ve named the event “Poetry of Gratitude.” I’ll read from Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir which is a tribute to my parents, Marian & Louie Bliesmer, and a tribute to the land—Iowa, which helped feed the world when I was growing up in the 1950s & still does. Black Dirt Days celebrates my parent’s forbidden romance, sleigh rides, wiener roasts, feeding cattle, even hauling manure! Most of all it’s about faith no matter what challenges we faced—tornadoes, ill health, the uncertainty of weather for the farmer. I’m looking forward to seeing cousins and old friends. And I’m grateful to Linda Snyder, owner of Crossroads, for welcoming me to her shop & cafe. Here’s what’s on the menu for the luncheon– Harvest Salad consisting of Fresh Spinach, Toasted Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries, Crisp Apples, Roasted Butternut Squash sprinkled w/ Goat Cheese & drizzled w/ Honey Maple Vinaigrette. Turkey Pot Pie with tender pieces of Turkey Breast, Peas, Carrots, Corn & Potatoes in a Creamy Sauce. Topped w/ a Flaky Pie Crust. Caramel-Cranberry Pumpkin Tart. Coffee or Tea. The luncheon (sounds yummy, doesn’t it?) will follow the reading, discussion, and book signing. Click here to read “I Give Thanks,” the key poem for the event. I’ll let you know how it goes.
A friend said she likes the cover of my newly printed book, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, and I promised to share the story behind it that illustrates the power of creative collaboration. My daughter Jennifer came up with the idea of a girl’s toes in black dirt as a cover illustration for the book. Then, as a surprise to me, she arranged a photo shoot with Naomi, a girl who lives next door to her in Michigan. Yes, the book is about growing up in the 1950s in Iowa, and yes, my husband Ron DeKett had to buy bags of black dirt to dump in the Michigan cornfield (that’s called poetic license). Southwestern Michigan soil tends to be a bit sandy, not black like Iowa’s dirt. Naomi all on her own dug a lovely family heirloom dress out of storage for the shoot. Kristin Toney designed the cover using Ron’s photo, and John Adam Wickliffe tweaked it before publication. I’m thrilled with the result. There you go, Rhea Lynn. That’s the story. Visit me at www.nanlundeen.com.
Do you remember your first kiss? Mine happened (first time for both of us) in the back seat of a Dodge on an Iowa gravel road while two of his buddies egged him on from the front seat. It was what passed for a wild night in the 1950s. They were driving way too fast, spitting gravel, taking hills up the center of the road, on our way home from a dance class in town. Somebody had taken pity on us country bumpkins or just couldn’t stand to watch us bumbling around in the gym at sock hops and arranged a few classes for us high school freshmen in the basement of a ranch house in Clinton. Poets will write about anything, so when I was writing Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, this prose poem popped out. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. How about it? Do you remember your first kiss?
Enjoy the audio.
I am so very grateful to my loving family and dear friends who made possible the publication of my new book, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir. It will be available on Amazon any day now, and we’re planning a party in August to celebrate its release. Thirty-seven narrative poems on seventy-two pages tell the story of life on a 160-acre farm in Iowa during the 1950s, when farmers rotated crops and milked cows by hand, neighbors helped neighbors, and church and school were an integral part of family life.
I greatly appreciate the friends and colleagues who wrote blurbs for the back cover, especially because they said nice things! Here are samples:
“Nan Lundeen poetically works the past in her collection, Black Dirt Days, Poems As Memoir. With her ear to the ground, she tills the soil of her familial lineage. She wields her lyric voice like a useful farm tool and the reader benefits from her creative laboring. In these poems, she harvests the stories of the land and the people that she came from and both will forever live in her well-worked lines.” – Glenis Redmond, Teaching Artist & Poet.
“Black Dirt Days celebrates farm and family, childhood and church, and ultimately even ‘good death.’ In these honest, forthright poems full of Iowa light, Nan Lundeen offers praise for the place ‘where [her] soul planted itself/and refused to move/although [her] body did.'” – Gil Allen, Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature, Furman University, Winner of the Robert Penn Warren Prize in Poetry.
“Nan’s works are warm, engaging, understandable, and down-to-earth, full of concrete images and enticing language.” – Jenny Munro, Freelance Writer.
“Black Dirt Days puts me right back into the farm kitchen, the church, and the neighborhood among loving sometimes judgmental people.” – Jeanne Hansen, Author, Iowa Resident.
Please visit www.nanlundeen.com to hear me read “The Oracle,” a poem from the new collection.
My family will print my chapbook, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, in honor of my 70th birthday. Awesome! I empathize with Cynthia Morgan’s drawing of this “Mu Cow” who has graduated from a Moo of Writing class and whose milk pail runneth over. My daughter Jenny, her husband Jim, my son Jeff, and my husband Ron, told me the news and revealed the book cover when we were all together at my daughter’s house in Michigan this month. What a gift! To see the cover visit www.nanlundeen.com.
And more awesome news–the pending publication of my handbook, Moo of Writing: how to milk your potential, received a boost from Writing Magazine in the UK who published my article, “Find Your Moos,” in its December issue. The editor has written me a lovely blurb for the cover of my handbook which will come out early 2014.
What a Thanksgiving for me this year. I am grateful.