The recently discovered World War II poetry by Joan Wehlen Morrison (edited by her daughter, Susan Signe Morrison), author of Home Front Girl, tells a unique – and true -- story as this teenager loses her innocence due to the impending war and its violent arrival.
- Gold Medal Winner in the category of Wisdom Poetry [2021 Human Relations Indie Book Awards]
With growing solicitude at the coming of the Second World War, teenager Joan Wehlen Morrison struggled in her poems to understand the enormous realities of her time while also learning about love and romance, the passage of time, maturity – topics common to most of us at such an age, but topics troubled profoundly by the hatred and loss and violence of the 1930s and 40s. Reading these poems is remembering with nostalgia what it means to be young and setting out. Sadly, they also echo the deeper question that all of us – young and old alike – are today once again forced to ponder: what is to come of us in a world gone mad? In Another Troy, Morrison aches for answers, for truth, in the way only a teenager can.
–Steve Wilson, author of The Reaches
Did you ever own a notebook, and did you open it, perhaps at night, to write about the daily happenings of a world whose pace, magnitude, beauty, and violence staggered your imagination? If so, these poems are for you. Joan Wehlen Morrison's Another Troy captures what it feels like to be an emerging political, intellectual, and romantic young woman in wartime—when, as William Carlos Williams famously wrote: "It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/ of what is found there." The poems in Another Troy see beauty and brokenness and honor both. "The moon is a bent feather in the sky" in one poem; "there is an empty orchard in Flanders/Rotting in the rain" in another. Tender and aware, these poems cannot help but imagine foreshortened futures, so that when Morrison writes that the "wind was like a boy's breath," we wonder if the boy is at war, and if he will live to see adulthood. In other poems, the poet scrutinizes her own life, imagining "this girl in the blue dress and Juliet cap — / I will be utterly disappeared." Luckily for us, Morrison's poems have not disappeared, and when she writes, "I am a moving window[,]" I feel lucky to have been able to glimpse the world through it.
–Cecily Parks, author of O'Nights and Field Folly Snow
Prepare to be charmed and enthralled by these beautiful, sincere poems full of artistry and verve. Joan Morrison, born in 1922, confronts the realities of war and love in witty and learned verse. "But darling, platonic as I know we are,/I fear, against all reason, I still want to be/Immensely Epicurean with you," she writes. Her work transcends the passing seasons of a nation and a life.
–Tina Kelley, author most recently of Rise Wildly and Abloom & Awry (CavanKerry Press.)
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: THE SAGA OF THE WYRD-WIFE
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: THE SAGA OF THE WYRD-WIFE tells the story of Beowulf from the point of view of the women.
- Winner: Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction
- Finalist for the 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Award in the category of Adult Fiction
- Finalist for the 2014-2015 Sarton Literary Award for Historical Fiction
- Finalist for Foreward Reviews' 2015 Indiefab Book of the Year Award: Historical (Adult Fiction)
An amber bead. A gold and glass drinking horn. A ring engraved with Thor's hammer – all artifacts from a Germanic tribe that carved a space for itself through brutality and violence on a windswept land . Brimhild weaves peace and conveys culture to the kingdom, until the secret of her birth threatens to tear apart the fragile political stability. This is her story – the tale of Grendel's Mother. She is no monster as portrayed in the Old English epic, Beowulf. We learn her side of the story and that of her defamed child. We see the many passages of her life: the brine-baby who floated mysteriously to shore; the hall-queen presiding over the triumphant building of the golden hall Heorot and victim of sexual and political betrayal; the exiled mere-wife, who ekes out a marginal life by an uncanny bog as a healer and contends with the menacing Beowulf; and the seer, who prophesizes what will occur to her adopted people. We learn how the invasion by brutal men is not a fairy tale, but a disaster doomed to cycle relentlessly through human history. Only the surviving women can sing poignant laments, preserve a glittering culture, and provide hope for the future.
"What a gift! Grendel's Mother is sure to become an integral part of every class on Beowulf.
~ Candace Robb, author of the Owen Archer Mystery Series and, as Emma Campion, A Triple Knot
"This fascinating narrative is to readers today what John Gardner's Grendel was to readers of the 1970s."
~ Haruko Momma, Angus Cameron Professor of Old English Language and Literature, Professor of Medieval Studies and English, and the Chief Editor of the Dictionary of Old English, University of Toronto
"This retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic by one of the period's most renowned scholars is gloomy and powerful in equal measure. Morrison names the poem's anonymous character (Brimhild) and, in so doing, tragically personalises the victim of the poem's patriarchal violence. The novel's alliterative style constantly enacts the signature of its source: 'loathsome love-making, putrid penetration, corrupt copulation'. Put this on the syllabus next time you teach Beowulf."
~Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, Times Higher Education
HOME FRONT GIRL: A DIARY OF LOVE, LITERATURE, AND GROWING UP IN WARTIME AMERICA
The actual diaries of a teenage girl living in Chicago just before World War II and as the war begins, Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but also an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl's lived experiences as World War II threatens and then begins.
"[B]etter than fiction."
~ Kirkus Reviews
"[R]eminiscent of Anne Frank"
~ Joan Hiatt Harlow
- Named by the Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education to the Best Children's Book of the Year 2013 list (Memoir: Ages 14 & up).
- Gold Medal in Historical Young Adult (Literary Classics)
- Words on Wings Book Award (a Top Honors prize from Literary Classics)
A MEDIEVAL WOMAN'S COMPANION: WOMEN'S LIVES IN THE EUROPEAN MIDDLE AGES
Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2015.
What have a deaf nun, the mother of the first baby born to Europeans in North America, and a condemned heretic to do with one another? They are among the virtuous virgins, marvelous maidens, and fierce feminists of the Middle Ages who trail-blazed paths for women today. Without those first courageous souls who worked in fields dominated by men, women might not have the presence they currently do in professions such as education, the law, and literature. Focusing on women from Western Europe between c. 300 and 1500 CE in the medieval period and richly carpeted with detail, A Medieval Woman's Companion offers a wealth of information about real medieval women who are now considered vital for understanding the Middle Ages in a full and nuanced way. Short biographies of 20 medieval women illustrate how they have anticipated and shaped current concerns. Their legacy abides until today in attitudes to contemporary women that have their roots in the medieval period. The final chapter suggests how 20th and 21st century feminist and gender theories can be applied to and complicated by medieval women's lives and writings. Doubly marginalized due to gender and the remoteness of the time period, medieval women's accomplishments are acknowledged and presented in a way that readers can appreciate and find inspiring. Ideal for high school and college classroom use in courses ranging from history and literature to women's and gender studies, an accompanying website with educational links, images, downloadable curriculum guide, and interactive blog will be made available at the time of publication.
- Gold Medal Winner in College Nonfiction by Literary Classics
- Bronze Medal Winner for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in Women's Studies
- Honorable Mention for 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in Adult Nonfiction and in Young Adult Nonfiction
A German Translation
I'm also delighted that A Medieval Woman's Companion was translated into German by my friend, the novelist and translator, Herbert Genzmer. You can buy it here and practice your German!
THE LITERATURE OF WASTE: MATERIAL ECOPOETICS AND ETHICAL MATTER
Tracing material and metaphoric waste through the Western canon, ranging from Beowulf to Samuel Beckett, Susan Morrison disrupts traditional perceptions of waste to better understand how we theorize, manage, and are implicated in what is discarded and seen as garbage. Engaging a wide range of disciplines, Morrison addresses how the materiality of waste has been sedimented into a variety of toxic metaphors. The vibrancy of matter itself disturbs these metaphors, especially those used to characterize people as disposable garbage. If scholars can read waste as possessing dynamic agency, how might that change the ethics of refuse-ing and ostracizing wasted humans? A major contribution to the growing field of Waste Studies, this comparative and theoretically innovative book confronts the reader with the ethical urgency present in waste literature itself.
"An unparalleled work of literary and cultural criticism....The Literature of Waste makes a strong argument for why the humanities matter - and why the matter the humanities explores must also include waste."
~ Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Professor of English, George Washington University, USA
[M]y understanding of waste has been greatly expanded by Susan Signe Morrison's The Literature of Waste: Material Ecopoetics and Ethical Matter....I think her book can help bring readers to a better understanding of waste....Her final two chapters on source reduction and reuse articulate a clear vision of how poetry might help humans to see waste in all its forms as ethical matter, calling for action....Her work brings together Walt Whitman, Ammons, and Italo Calvino along with Chaucer and others in an exciting and awe-inspiring assemblage. The Literature of Waste also offers valuable commentary in thinking about intertextuality as a kind of recycling, the dangers of seeing certain groups of humans as waste, the dependent relations a city has with rural landscapes concerning waste disposal, and the pressing problem of conspicuous consumption and the often hidden increase in waste it produces. As I was trying to dig through Morrison's midden heap of literature, theory, and history, I found myself constantly struck by poignant insights and thoughtful articulations, especially her work on early modern and medieval texts. In terms of ecocriticism, the book is a great example of interdisciplinary thought that seeks to address environmental crisis.....Scholars and readers interested in material culture or any of its various offshoots will find much of use here while those interested in garbage more generally will also find this book a useful introduction to thinking about waste.
~Matthew Zantingh, The Goose 15.1 (2016), Art. 13
EXCREMENT IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES: SACRED FILTH AND CHAUCER'S FECOPOETICS
Why does excrement appear so frequently in medieval literature, especially the works by Geoffrey Chaucer? Do you dare to find out?
"This is a fascinating book."
~ Practical Gastroenterology
Nominated for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title
WOMEN PILGRIMS IN LATE MEDIEVAL ENGLAND: PRIVATE PIETY AS PUBLIC PERFORMANCE
The first scholarly book ever to focus on medieval women pilgrims--in history, in literature, and in art.
"This is an exhaustively researched and necessary study in the wider field of pilgrimage, providing new insights into the place of women pilgrims in medieval society."