Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Next Two Books - No April Fool Joke

Dear Family and Friends,

Life sure is full of surprises. I knew that you would be surprised to learn that I wrote a fourth book - and I'll give you details about that one, here below, since it was published today!

But, here is more news: In recent days, and significantly, on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 - I myself was surprised by an unexpected, though clear call to pick up again the book I had started to write but dropped, last summer. (I gave my reasons for that decision in the letter I wrote on July 14, 2015 entitled "With Diminishment - Fulfillment". It's posted on my website under the Elaine and Francis blog.) Looking back, I'm concluding that the timing must not have been right, earlier.

I envision this fifth book will have something like the same title - "THIS NEW LIFE - Selections from A Widow's Journal." But, from what I sense, this one may, or likely will, have a more specific focus.

Interestingly, I also intuit that publishing the fourth book, A Friend Who Knows the Tone, somehow, unexpectedly, actually set the stage for resurrecting what will now be, my fifth book - the "Widow's Journal." book!

This fourth one is a small book, consisting mainly of thank you poems to my editor, Mike O'Connor - thirty-two poems, to be exact. Its title, A Friend Who Knows the Tone - is significant, as I'll explain. And with that explanation will come the second reason for my writing it.

Though Mike lives in the Pacific Northwest, he walked with me, so to speak, through every one of the poems in my first and third books, and also during the two year process I spent writing Francis' and my love story in prose. As my editor, he's the one who most directly assisted me in writing these books after Francis died. In that sense, he helped me answer my call.

So you can imagine why I want to thank Mike. I'm even certain Francis would want me to do so. In fact, knowing Francis as I do, I believe that in some way, he has been, all along, thanking my editor.

In my Christmas letter, two and a half months ago, I wrote: "At this point, it's difficult to convey the depth of my gratitude and joy that the three books I felt compelled to write after Francis died, have been completed."

And then, in that letter, I copied for you what I called "this recent little poem - THE HARVEST IS IN.

What I didn't tell you then, however, is that I had left out a stanza. This poem, you see, is actually one of the poems in this new book. Here it is now, with the omitted third stanza restored. 


Why am I crying
"Joy and thanksgiving!"?

It's my lot
to leave our legacy of love -
(Francis's and mine)
in poems and prose:
three books in five years,
since he died.

But take a bow, my editor:
they wouldn't exist
as they do,
without you.
Joy and thanksgiving!

The same David Gawlik of Wisconsin, whose company, Caritas Communication, published my first three books, has published this one, A Friend Who Knows the Tone. (David, also a non-canonical priest as Francis was, became our special friend ever since we joined CORPUS, in 1991.) But, because David is using a different system now (something like print on demand) I will no longer be required to buy copies of my book, in bulk. Although that's good for my pocketbook, it means I won't have copies of this book on hand to give or sell to others.

Those interested in a copy will have to order it directly from

As far as my living room is concerned, however, that's a good thing, too, since I already have stacks of books in boxes from which to fill out orders for my Sing to Me and I Will Hear You books.

I can, however, give you the flavor of the poems in A Friend Who Knows the Tone by copying for you here a few of the significant ones. How in the world did I end up with an editor from the Pacific Northwest? To me, it's pure "Providence." But this poem goes into detail:


My "yes" to a student's request -
"May I tell your story of grief?"

A widow's response from afar
to its national radio airing:
"That's my experience, too!"

My question to her,
this new email friend:
"What to do with these poems?
They keep coming!
Could they fit in a memoir?"

Her offer:
"Shall I ask my neighbor?
He's done something like that.
He's a poet and editor, too."

His response when he read them:
"There are good things in these.
I'll help you."

Yes, indeed, it took
all of these links -
in conjunction
to bring my editor to me.

And here is one of the last poems in the book:


No other one
walked through my grief
as you did, for
you worked with my words;
you worked with "his" words.
None could walk now
in that way
through my grief
as you did, for
the bare naked time of that
raw early pain
has gone.
That period is gone.
But as you walked with me then,
you still walk with me now. 

The significance of this book's title points to another weighty reason, besides gratitude, why I wrote it, . . . or, to be more accurate - it's what in the first place, prompted my writing A Friend Who Knows the Tone. But first you need to know this:

Besides being a poet, writer, and editor, Mike O'Connor, is also a translator of Chinese literature. As I learned from him by happenstance after concluding business over the telephone -  the Chinese word chih-yin means "to know the tone." A Friend Who Knows the Tone is a good title for my book, then, because without question, from the beginning, Mike grasped, as if from within, what I was expressing in my poems. Perhaps the fact he was still grieving the death of his own mother, not long before deceased, had something to do with it. In any case, Mike has been, and continues to be, for me - one who knows the tone: a chih-yin. 

But, to get back to that second source of inspiration which nudged me to write this book. Once I heard the story behind the word chih-yin, I wanted to spotlight it for our contemporaries. Why? Because I see it as a "treasure" from the historical period called: "The Spring and Autumn Period of Ancient China." So I did, by making it a prominent part of my preface.

I'm glad, realizing right now, that even without buying my book - you can read this ancient chih-yin story for yourself, right here: It's Mike who had his particular contribution posted, in 1997 in his friend's, William Slaughter's, "Electronic Journal of Poetry & Poetics - Never in and never out of print."
But his own offering is entitled "Mudlark No. 7 (1997) Only A Friend Can Know  Poems and Translations on the Theme of Chi-yin by Mike O'Connor"

The great thing is - you can read for yourself, here, not only the story itself (which is all that I copied, verbatim, to include in my preface) but also, Mike's translations from the Chinese, of several poems written by selected ancient Chinese poets. They're mixed in alongside several of Mike's own poems.

The point is that these poems, both ancient and contemporary, are all written in the "chih-yin" spirit. Or, as Mike called them: "Poems and Translations on the Theme of Chih-yin".

I encourage you to read, as well, the detailed "Notes" at the end, because they're instructive. In fact, this particular Mudlark No. 7 (1997) will enable you to understand something about the character of my editor - A Friend Who Knows the Tone.

So here it is, dear family and friends - not an April Fool's joke, but an announcement: "My Next Two Books."

As I told David this evening, (He's my publisher and Francis' and my longtime friend through CORPUS  "I'm quite happy about this - my call to pick up again what will now be my fifth book, THIS NEW LIFE - A Widow's Journal!"

Loving regards, and Easter season blessings to you all,