FINALIST FOR THE WEATHERFORD AWARD IN APPALACHIAN LITERATURE for Poetry--2016, presented by Berea College --- THE MAD FARMER'S WIFE
Cover Quotes for THE MAD FARMER’S WIFE
In this collection Rita Quillen reveals the distinctiveness and depth of her poetry. Here the mountains speak, and the poet speaks to and of the mountains. These poems are an homage and complement to Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer poems, bringing a rural time and place vividly alive. They are poems of history and memory, the bonds of family and land, motherhood and loss. Quillen celebrates the poetry of work and prayer, honoring a woman’s loneliness, and kinship with wildlife, and moments of surprising humor, moments of intense connection, fierce love.
----Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek
This book has a strong heart, sharp eyes, a clear mind, a lively and honest tongue, a singing voice, and a passionate soul. It mourns the world we’ve lost at the same it deeply relishes the life we still have on this earth. Read Rita Quillen’s The Mad Farmer’s Wife as an act of thanking your lucky stars.
--David Huddle, author of Glory River, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion, and Dream Sender
All good poetry offers up a haunting line that begs to be pulled out of its narrative, in order to redeem innumerable personal narratives. Rita Quillen’s collection The Mad Farmer’s Wife is rich in memorable verses that compel us to look deeply into our own plowed and unplowed lives. “There is a reason I am ritual,” we read, “Every kind of metaphor,/ The only balm for every kind of sore.” Quillen exposes, often to heal, the tender spots of our own lives through poems that parallel, brilliantly, the balance between acceptance and resistance that characterize the poet and the farmer (Quillen is both), a shared indebtedness to a richly worded land. How fortunate we are—page after page, metaphor in hand—to be partakers of such bounty.
--Sofia M. Starnes, Poet Laureate of Virginia 2012-14
The Mad Farmer’s Wife is a response to a life lived on a mountain cattle farm in Southwest Virginia and also to a poetic persona created by noted Kentucky poet and essayist Wendell Berry over thirty years ago: the Mad Farmer. In a world increasingly detached from the land that supplies our all our essential resources, The Mad Farmer’s Wife tries to help us understand the complexity and challenge of living that life in today’s economy and the dark life and death struggles that are a routine part of farm living.
Prayer of the Mad Farmer’s Wife
May the weeds grow into heart-shaped hedges
Giving symmetry and order to ragged fields
That August sun has turned loose and ugly
Let sunburned calves and their tired mothers
Find a pool of winter—cool shade
Between woods and creek at our world’s edge.
I am lost on a heat-shimmering quilt
Just yards from an open door where
My children watch for the relief of nightfall
And aimless bees and flies look to me
Saying, “You must know something.”
Let there be silence once again
As voices dwindle to snowsoft murmur
My life rising anew from behind the mountain.