Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lauren B. Grossman's "THE GOLDEN PEACOCK" - Review & Scripted Interview By Christal Rice Cooper

Review & Scripted Interview With Lauren B. Grossman
Twitter: @peacock10

THE GOLDEN PEACOCK is a mystery. Though Hitler is on the cover (is there a more iconic image of the Holocaust?), the backstory of Jana Lutken weaves in and out with the actual story, which takes place in the 1990s.
The protagonist is Rainee Allen, a writer who stumbles across a long-held secret involving a Holocaust survivor with Alzheimer’s. There are several twists and surprises which the reader never sees coming.”

--Lauren B Grossman, describing The Golden Peacock

The Golden Peacock is the story of two women each living across the globe and in two different time zones:  Jana Lutken in Germany and England during World War Two and Rainee Allen in Boston, Massachusetts and England in 1997.
The Golden Peacock begins in October of 1938 in Germany where 12-year-old Jana Lutken and her family are hiding in Christian neighbor Franz Shenkel’s house from a violent ant-Semitic mob rioting the streets of Frechen, Germany.

We jumped at the violent sound of glass shattering.  An axe crashed through the window, ricocheted off the kitchen wall, and landed within inches of my back.  It was close.  Too close.  Papa tightened his protective grip around us.
I began to cry and Papa hushed me straightaway.  “Shush, Jana.  Keep quiet.  Not a noise.”  I had never seen my father so alarmed.  The look in his eyes was frightening. 

Jana whose mother has died, now considers family to be her father whom she calls Papa, Aunt Gertie, brother Max, and two cousins, Adelheid and Mathilde.  The family flees to Amsterdam, Holland thinking it would remain free from Hitler and his regime.  They were wrong, and find themselves starving and destitute.

Papa and Aunt Gertie insist the children be sent to Burgerweeshuis, a Catholic orphanage willing to take in Jewish refugee children. 

The six of us walked to the Burgerweeshuis in silence.  It was the longest walk of my life.  I held tight to Papa’s hand, and he held Max’s.  Aunt Gertie, flanked by my two cousins, walked behind us.  She needed privacy with her children and Papa needed the same.
The silence was cruel.  There were no birds chirping, no vendors selling their wares, no streetcars running.  The only sound was our footsteps, each step took me further away from the person I loved most in the world.
I could no longer bear the eerie silence, and in my nervousness, I began to hum.  It was a Yiddish song Mama and Papa had sung to Max and me called “The Golden Peacock.”  Max had changed the words to make it funny and about me.  It became our song, and we used to laugh at his lyrics.  He came to call me his “golden peacock.”  Soon, Max began to hum and then Papa, too.  It must have overwhelmed him, for suddenly Papa’s legs buckled, and he fell to his knees crying.  He embraced us both very tightly as we huddled together.  

There are two different versions of the Yiddish folk song “The Golden Peacock” about a miserable bride, exiled from her parents’ home and imprisoned by her mother –in-law.  

The first version, described in Ginzburg & Marek’s anthology, Jewish Folksongs in Russia, 1901, the golden peacock functions as a messenger between the girl and her family.
The second version, described in Beregovsky's collection of Jewish Folksongs (1938), the girl turns herself into a golden peacock and flies to her parents' home. 

Max and Jana wait impatiently to hear from their father, but when months pass with no word, the two become like the golden peacock and run away, only to end up back at the orphanage, each faced with harsh punishment and separated from one another.
Then the mysterious and blonde Frau Wijsmuller-Meijer shows up at the orphanage and arranges to have all the 70 Jewish boys and girls placed on a ship and sent to Great Britain where they will be taken in by English families. 

The plan is that Jana and Max will board the ship together and be taken in by the same family, but fate is cruel at the last moment: only the girls are allowed to board the first ship and Jana never sees Max again.  She is told that Max died along with all the other boys on the second ship due to being torpedoed by a Nazi submarine. 
Sixty years later, American bestselling author Rainee Allen resides in Boston where she is at a crossroads: she questions the choice she made when she was 19, and is suffering from writer’s block.
Things change when Rainee goes through her roll top desk and comes across the Identification Card on a Jana Lutkin.

She flashed back to a business convention in Washington D.C. six years earlier.  A co-worker had suggested they visit the Holocaust Museum.  Picked arbitrarily from a large bin, the ticket clerk had handed each of them a passport, identification card of a Holocaust survivor.
She thought, Now why did I keep this all these years?
When she began to read it, the reason became evidence.  Rainee had received the passport of a woman who shared her birthday. It was coincidental that this survivor’s birthday was February 9, 1927 and Rainee’s birthday was February 9, but thirty years later.  Rainee recalled this old coincidence had touched a feeling deep inside her.  She did not know why, but it had affected her emotionally.
She pointed it out to a co-worker, wiped some tears from her eyes and said, “I know it sounds silly, but I tend to believe things like this happen for a reason.”
Her friend agreed.  “These types of coincidences are one of life’s little gifts.”

The chapters alternate between Jana’s life and Rainee’s life, and through their voices numerous things are revealed:  sexual violence, lies, Alzheimer’s, old loves, new loves, secret identities, and family secrets. 
The reader learns about Jana and the horrors she had to face before and after her escape from Hitler's Germany.  Even though Jana escapes the concentration camps – her depression, her trauma is just as valid as the Jew who suffered the Holocaust while living in the concentration camps.  The Golden Peacock proves pain is pain – and someone else’s pain, though different, never negates another person’s pain. 
And there is the big great conversion of past and present when Rainee discovers Jana living in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Jana also experiences flashbacks and panic attacks each time Dr. Martin Wagner comes to visit. 
Things become dangerous when Rainee discovers why Dr. Wagner holds the key to Jana’s memory, and when Jana finally remembers The Golden Peacock and sings it out loud – their lives will never be the same.


Scripted Interview With 
Lauren B. Grossman

Lauren B Grossman, born in 1955, was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

I am one of four siblings. My parent’s goal was that we like each other and get along. I think we may have been the exception to the rule. I remember friends visiting and couldn’t believe that we all got along so well. We are all now grown with our own grown children. We are still close and love each other very much. 

At the age of eleven, Grossman started writing her first novel she titled Death and Transfiguration.

That’s the title of a symphony. It was about a woman with a terminal illness. I was a dark child with a big vocabulary. I never got very far.
Then at 25, I began a book about Nantucket women during the whaling days. I didn’t get very far. Two books with a beginning, but no middle and no end. Imagine my delight when I completed my first novel!
Besides those incomplete novels, I wrote articles for a newspaper and one for a national magazine. Two of my short stories won “Honorable Mention” with the Writer's Digest Short Stories competitions. That gives me great pride because there were 17,000 submissions with the first story. Currently, I have a work in progress.

Even though Grossman had the yearning and the calling to write, her original plan was to be an actress.  

I was determined to be an actress from the age of eleven. That gave me direction and a career path.
After earning a degree in theatre from Emerson College with a minor in set design, I moved to Hollywood to seek my fame and fortune. It wasn’t long before I realized I was a little fish in a big pond. 

I returned to my hometown and became a big fish in a little pond. I continued my theatre career there while earning money in the family business. I was acting, creating set designs, and on the boards of many theatre groups and feeling very self-important. I also opened an acting school for children.
After marrying and having children, I gave up acting and co-founded and co-published a performing arts newspaper with a good friend. That evolved into a weekly radio show. We laughed a lot during those days.
When my children were seven and five, we moved to Southern Arizona.

Needing to “create” I took up painting. When my hands began to hurt from my multiple sclerosis, I took up writing (typing) and my debut novel was born.  

Grossman describes herself as a writer with disABILITIES.

I have Multiple Sclerosis and try to advocate by spreading awareness. My first novel had a main character who received the diagnosis of MS. In my writing, I endeavored to spread awareness by showing how having the disease can affect a person and their relationships. In THE GOLDEN PEACOCK, I introduced a character who has MS. Although she is a minor character in the story, I feel I am on a mission to continue spreading awareness. 

In this story, however, Alzheimer’s Disease prominently figures into the storyline. I am trying to make people aware that there are Holocaust survivors who do have Alzheimer's and, sadly in their waning years, relive the horrors of the war. Try to imagine what that must be like.

As far as how MS affects my own writing, I would have to say that now my fingers don’t fly over the keyboard as fast anymore. They tire, as do I. Fatigue is a symptom from which most people with MS suffer.

Cognitive issues affect me, as well. Although I have done radio interviews, I’m glad this is not one, as I would have to look at notes to answer your very well-posed questions.

In 2005 Lauren Grossman visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and received a souvenir identity card.

The Holocaust identification cards are handed out to anyone who enters. They are arbitrarily picked from a large bin. As people exit, they are allowed to keep them or recycle them in that bin. 

That was a day I will never forget. My family was on vacation in D.C. and we (husband Michael) wanted our children (Rachel and Zach) to experience the Holocaust Museum. (They were then 14 and 17 years old). 

Each of us were handed an ID card. Each card had as much information as possible for an individual person who may or may not have survived the Holocaust.
My card had the picture, name, city, country, and date of birth of a survivor (Dora Unger). I did a double-take when I saw that she was born on January 7, 1925 – 30 years to the date of my birth date. I’m not a true believer in fate, but I know that had I entered five minutes later, I may not have received that same card. Some people might call it synchronicity.

I read the information on the card. It was in the survivor’s own words and it was only about 200 words. Dora had left for England on one of the last Kindertransports (children’s transports) — a series of rescue efforts that brought thousands of Jewish refugee children to Great Britain from Nazi-occupied countries in Europe between 1938 and 1940. 

Dora’s story intrigued me enough to save my card, and I felt I was given her story for a reason. She became my muse.

In 2012 Lauren B Grossman was cleaning out her desk when she re-discovered the card of Dora Unger.

After my novel ONCE IN EVERY GENERATION debuted, I was delighted with the global response to it. There were over 14,000 downloads but I spent a full year promoting it. 

At the end of that year I realized that I had not written anything, not even a short story, which I used to love writing. I wanted to get back to writing, but I literally had no idea what I would write about. Like my protagonist in THE GOLDEN PEACOCK, when I get writer’s block, I get busy cleaning. I started with my desk, and came across the ID card, sat down to reread it, and instantly knew that there was a story there.
My life paralleled that of my protagonist, Rainee Allen, up until she actually met Jana Lutken. A friend of mine was going to London on assignment for 10 days and asked me to accompany her, all expenses paid. How could I say no? That was where my research began. 

A friend of mine, who is an English professor at the University of Arizona, wrote a letter of introduction so that I could have access to the archives in the British Library.
It was exciting to be able to begin research. However, because my character, who was based on my muse, was not a “person of note,” there was no information on her. However there was a lot of information on other people, places, dates, etc. which do appear in the novel.

Grossman first heard the song The Golden Peacock while researching for the book The Golden Peacock.
In my research, I was able to Google the song. It was in Yiddish. There are several different versions. I chose one version that would lend itself to a young boy changing the lyrics to make it silly and about his family. I assigned my own brother that task since he is very clever.

Lauren B Grossman researched and wrote the novel, which took her two years, from her trip to London until she had the printed version in her hands.  She did most of the writing of The Golden Peacock at the local café. 

I would go to a café and sit at the same table about three times a week. There were two times when I arrived and someone was at my table. I actually had a little trouble writing those days. Funny how that happens. Once I opened my laptop, my hands flew over the keyboard as if they had a life of their own. It was an exhilarating feeling. Four hours would pass before I looked up and realized it was time to get up and stretch! 

Lauren B Grossman’s strategy for writing The Golden Peacock was simply to not have a strategy.

I’m not an outliner. I had no strategy. The book wrote itself. Of course, I’m writing about the first draft. I once read, “The first draft is written from the heart. The second draft is written from the head.” So true. The really hard work came with the second, third, and fourth drafts.

How much of THE GOLDEN PEACOCK is fiction and how much is fact? 

THE GOLDEN PEACOCK was inspired by real events. I did follow much of what was written in the ID I was handed at the US Holocaust Museum. But the survivor’s story ended after about 200 words and that’s not enough for a novel. I like to call my novel “Historical Fiction,” since I used real people, places, events, dates, etc. that were real. I changed the survivor’s name, date of birth, and where she was born. The true person’s mother, father, and brother died in the camps at Sobibor and Auschwitz.
In my story, Jana Lutken’s father was alive, as was her brother. This was pivotal to the storyline. My muse was saved when, at the orphanage in which she was placed, a woman (who was later honored as “Righteous Among Nations”), in the middle of the night, rescued about 70 children by placing them on a Kindertransport to Great Britain. My muse’s story ended there. Everything that followed was fiction.

What was the most compelling excerpt to write from THE GOLDEN PEACOCK ?

Even though it’s backstory, the first paragraph in the book, really grabs you.  
Also, when Jana is saying goodbye to her papa at the orphanage – that’s a real tear-jerker.

The rape scene was tough to take!  Was this planned for you to write? Or did it also take you by surprise?

Yes, it was a very tough scene to write. Much of what I wrote took me by surprise.
I drew a lot of information from a book titled, “Children’s Exodus – A History of the Kindertransport.” It contained a lot of personal entries. Though many families were happy to foster the children, sadly, some of the children who rode the Kindertransport , were used like slaves, and some were abused either verbally or sexually. 

One example in the book reported a particular child who was repeatedly raped not only by her foster father but also by his 19-year-old son.
It appeared that these cases were the exceptions. Most foster parents took their role seriously and often welcomed the children as members of their family.

Were there any books and/or writers that you read that helped you in writing THE GOLDEN PEACOCK?

The biggest help in my research was the book “Children’s Exodus – A History of the Kidertransport.”

My brother Bernie was a big help in the editing. We would speak nearly weekly after I’d send him my written pages. He offered many suggestions and helped me view the writing from the male perspective. 

Who are you more common with Jane or Rainee? And can you describe those common traits?

       I am more Rainee. We’re both writers. I lived on Marlborough Street in Boston. And we both searched for our muse.

Can you describe the publishing process of THE GOLDEN PEACOCK?

It’s a lot of work. Hard work. I now have a literary agent who is shopping it around to the mainstream publishing houses, but meanwhile, I am still promoting every day. Many people have said it would make a great movie, so I am promoting that route too. Know anybody?

Can you go into detail about the cover?  I’m thinking the little girl is Jana?  Why was Rainee not represented on the cover?

Yes, the girl is a young Jana Lutken, looking out the farm window, waiting for her brother Max. Jana spent her life waiting for Max to appear. Faded into the background is Hitler. I wanted his image to not be prominent, but almost ghostly... hence the faded imagery. 

My talented nephew, Evan Jaroslow, created the front and back cover. 

Although Rainee is the protagonist in the novel, the story centers around the mystery of Jana’s backstory.
The cover has been controversial because of Hitler’s image. What more iconic image of the Holocaust is there? I put a survey out on Facebook and found that 50% of people would NOT pick up the book if they saw it at the bookstore because of Hitler’s image. While the other 50% found the girl’s face haunting and were drawn to pick it up and read the back cover. 50/50. What’s a writer to do?

I love hearing opinions from readers – good or bad, I learn from everybody.
Thank you for this opportunity and thank you to all the readers.

Photograph Description & Copyright Information

Jacket cover of The Golden Peacock

Lauren B. Grossman
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

Polish Jews expelled from Germany in late October of 1938
Public Domain

City of Rottendam after the German bombing during the German invasion of the Netherlands in May of 1940
Public Domain

Here Polish World War II war orphans are being cared for at a Catholic orphange after the War in 1946. The wire service caption read, "Polish orphans of War: Some of Poland's thousands of orphans, these young boys libe on a Catholic orphanage in Lublin. The American Red Cross, which took this picture, advised most of these children's clothing and medicines are supplied by that organization." Lublin was the center of the Soviet-backed Polis regime during the War.
Public Domain

A Peafowl flaring his feathers.
CCBySA 3.0

Illustration, The Weeping Bride
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law 

Peacock, 15th century art.
Public Domain

Jews orphans being sent on one of the ships to England.

ID Card

Gary Jaroslow, Bernie, Lauren B. Grossman, and Ilana MK
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

Lauren B. Grossman at her office
Copyright granted by Lauren B Grossman

Paddadium Theatre plaque
Copyright granted by Lauren B Grossman

The southern Arizona sunrise in Laure B Grossman’s backyard.
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

Lauren B Grossman at a book-signing for Once In Every Generation

MS awareness ribbon
Public Domain

Alzheimer’s awareness logo
Public Domain

Lauren B. Grossman’s hands on laptop
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

I.D. Card

Zach, Michael, Lauren and Rachel
Copyright granted by Laure B. Grossman

Dora Unger in 1961

Frannk Meisler’s Kindertransport Memorial 2009 at the Gdannsk Glowny Railroad Station Poland
Public Domain

Jacket cover of Once In Every Generation

Lauren B. Grossman in front of Buckingham Palace during her 10-day-stay in London.
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

Kindertransport memorial in Liverpool Street Concourse
Public Domain

Laure B. Grossman at her favorite Café in August 2012.

Geertruida Wijsmuller Meijer
Aunti Traus Statue in Amsterdam

28 and 29
Jacket cover of Children’s Exodus – A History of Kindertransport.

Bernie Jaroslow
Copyright grated by Lauren B. Grossman

Portion of jacket cover of The Golden Peacock  

Evan Jaroslow
Copyright granted by Lauren B. Grossman

Portion of jacket cover of The Golden Peacock

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review/Analysis on Joan Murray's "SWIMMING FOR THE ARK" by Christal Rice Cooper . . .

Christal Cooper

Excerpts given copyright privilege by White Pine Press.

The Beggar, The Spiritualist, & The Seeker
*A Book Analysis On Joan Murray’s 
Swimming For the Ark New & Selected Poems 1990-2015 

White Pine Press published Joan Murray’s fifth poetry collection Swimming For The Ark New And Selected Poems 1990-2015 on March 3, 2015.

Swimming for the Ark is the first book to be published by White Pine Press’s new Distinguished Poets Series funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Murray has also written four other poetry collections:  The Same Water (Wesleyan) which earned her the Wesleyan New Poets Series Competition; Looking for the Parade (W.W. Norton & Company), which was chosen by Robert Bly as the winner of the National Poetry Series Open Competition; Queen of the Mist (Beacon Press), which was chosen by Joyce Carol Oates as the runner up for a Poetry Society American award, and earned Murray her first Broadway commission; and, Dancing on the Edge (Beacon Press).

She has also edited three poetry anthologies:  Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times (Beacon Press), Poems to Live by in Troubling Times (Beacon Press), and The Pushcart Book of Poetry: the Best Poems from 30 Years of the Pushcart Prize (Pushcart Press). 

Swimming For The Ark New & Selected Poems 1990-2015, 203 pages, is divided into five sections: from each of her four poetry collections, and “New Poems,” the first section in the book. 
There are three dominant themes in this collection:  that of the beggar, the spiritual, and the seeker.  
The beggar is defined as a person or creature that has exceeded all resources and capabilities of acquiring something that is necessary for physical life.  The beggar, in the process of begging, also makes it understood that he, she, or it will never be able to return the favor, the gift, nor the payment.   

Murray uses spiritual symbolism throughout the collection to impact her poems:  images of Jesus, Peter, Mother Mary, Thomas, scenes from parables Jesus told, and other spiritual elements are detected throughout her poetry.  In many of the poems the speaker of the poem is a little girl who portrays herself and her mother as the Mother Mary.     

Finally ingrained in all of humanity regardless if we are focused on begging for food or for spiritual awakening – there is the seeker in all of us, the seeker of a quest – the drive to find and discover something we don’t have and can not be granted by physical means such as food, clothing or shelter. 
At first I, as the reader, was only focusing on the “beggar” aspect of these poems but felt disjointed.  There was also spirituality and a quest theme in these poems that could not be denied.

In “What Was Expected” a woman encounters opossum – which in this poem is the beggar – begging the woman for food.    The woman experiences a sense of god-like power by comparing herself to Jesus’s disciple Peter.  She tries to practice her god-like power and convince herself that she could turn this opossum into a cat.  She opens the door, only to have the opossum back away in fear, abandoning the cat’s bowl of food.  She describes the opossum as a beggar, inserting even more spiritual metaphors- that of comparing the opossum to baby Jesus.

because he guessed, dumb beggar, I wouldn’t pursue him,
only leave him to his hunger and the dicey scraps of winter
as the stars did in December when he came.

The beggar in  “The Gypsy Child” is a mouse the reader is warned to stay away from, similar to the pig that Christ warned us to stay away from, and a warning of what would happen if we went near the pig – it would be like throwing out precious pearls into the swine.    In this poem the pig is the mouse and the pearls are the sugar. 

There is a twist – the speaker of the poem becomes the predator to the beggar by condemning the mouse to death by allowing it to gorge on the sugar. 

Give the mouse the run of your house
and it will beat a path to your bag of sugar
and gorge itself with a happiness that
could move you to tears, which is what
I gave it, right there –with my fingers
in the mess it had left with me.

The woman regrets the way she treated the mouse and feels guilty for not having sympathy for the beggar mouse, only to realize that she is the beggar in spiritual need.

And now I’m left with what I’ve lost –
the simple capacity to be stirred by simple things

The woman deems the humanity problem is not due to the amount of food begged for or the amount of good granted but the human race loosing the ability to feel surprised with each oncoming action.

Maybe sympathy comes best
when it’s got some element of surprise to it-
like when you stop on 14th street and reach
for your wallet the first time the Gypsy child
grabs your arm and tells you she’s hungry.
But the next time, though she’s probably
just as hungry, which may be
considerably or not at all,
you push her hand away

In the spiritual world we as humanity are all beggars praying to God, the One who has lost the element of surprise, a gift He’s bestowed upon humanity, a gift that we are begging God to take back. 

In “Just Taste Them” the speaker of the poem compares seven cheeses to the seven sacraments, the tasting of these cheeses to Communion, and chanting to the Catholic communion prayer.
In the closing of the poem the speaker identifies her father as a stranger of a god, who looks into the refrigerator wondering at these cheesey sacraments and what they are there for.  It is here that the old adage that daughters view god the way they view their father is true.

and would come upon those odd-named things
and wonder what they were doing there –
as if they’d come from somewhere very far away-
the food of some strangers
or maybe their gods

In “The Gardener’s Wife” the speaker identifies her father as a gardener and a nurturer, two traits that he shares with God, but those traits are lost the moment God brings the gardener and the gardener’s wife into existence.    

Perhaps God is Dr. Frankenstein and we are the monsters – or is it the other way around?

And every weekend he tended it by hand,
he put up twigs and twine, he weeded, watered,
the way God must have done before he brought in
the gardener and the gardener’s wife
and everything went wrong.

In “The Precarious Nest” God the father is depicted as a neglectful father which is universal to all of humanity – at one point or another every human being has felt neglected by God.  By sharing this universal truth there is hope and loss all at the same time.

Whatever we prayed to once
is there outside the porch panes, still
                                answering or ignoring our prayers.

There is always some weed that the garden loves. 

In “Swimming For The Ark” the speaker compares her mother to the Virgin Mary.

And my mother closed herself
into the phone booth like the Virgin ascending to heaven

In “Lifeline” the speaker of the poem compares herself to the Mother Mary with elements of being a savior to the sinful turtle, another beggar.

                                      and there I knelt
like the Madonna at the manger
on a rock big enough to sacrifice anything on,
and I set the turtle down and mumbled
something like “live long and prosper,”
to which it must have said “amen”
before I let it go.

In “Fiat” the speaker of the poem is the Virgin Mary and the God the creator all in one via the voice of Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel and live to tell the tale.

Then – like the Virgin Mary –
I was quickened:
I got down on my knees
and spread two lengths of pattern stock
and began to sketch a shape:
I rounded it and tapered it,
added and erased
-till I knew it would accommodate my size.

In “Debriefing” the speaker of the poem compares herself to Thomas, the disciple who doubted Jesus and his resurrection and had to touch his side before he was convinced.
-until a trio of surgeons
began to probe my torso (maybe looking for a gash
to put their hands in – so they could prove, as in the gospel,
that I truly was alive.

In “The Same Water” one questions why he or she should believe in anything, when, regardless of what we believe, we all experience “The Same Water?”

Sooner or later each kid who fishes
                         in uneventful water
where the bob only bobs and is not pulled under
     will imagine the sameness of heaven
and by lunchtime will realize in his boredom
that all water converges
                                         and must be shared by everyone.

In these poems there are two dominant figures, both seekers and both women on opposite sides of the globe, one from South Africa and the other in Niagara Falls who experience her own individual water.

The woman from South Africa is seeking water on behalf of the children in her village who are dying of thirst.  This is the physical nourishment.

After a year drought,
when one child in three is at risk of death,
she returns from a distant well,
carrying water on her head. 

The other is Annie Edson Taylor who went over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel for something outside the physical realm: to experience a spiritual awakening or to experience god-like qualities, that of creation?

Niagara! - over meunder me!-
I spilled into it from every pore,
lost myself
in the blackness of its roar.
Something opened- grew wide- and tore-
till every part of me was new:
Brain.  Eyes.  Tongue
--down to the wet soles in my shoes.
I took my measure, checked my sex
and, pleased with what I’d made,
I slapped my back between the blades
and took a deep breath
of consciousness.

     Regardless of where we are at in our life - that of being a beggar, spiritualist, or a seeker-- Joan Murray’s book Swimming For the Ark speaks to the humanity within all of us, and is a testament that we are all in the same water, no matter how different our circumstances may be.


White Pine Press logo

Swimming for the Ark jacket cover

Joan Murray, image on back jacket cover.
Copyright granted by White Pine Press

The Same Water jacket cover

Looking for the Parade and Robert Bly (Public Domain)

Queen of the Mist and Joyce Carol Oats (Fair Use)

Dancing On the Edge

Poems to Live By In Uncertain Times jacket cover

Poems to Live By In Troubling Times jacket cover

The Pushcart Book of Poetry:  the Best Poems from 30 Years of Pushcart Prize jacket cover

Full Jacket cover of SWIMMING FOR THE ARK

Painting, Beggar Boys Eating Grapes and Melons
Attributed to Murillo Estaban
Public Domain

First Communion in 1896 by Pablo Picasso
Public Domain

The Seeker
Attributed to Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper

Joan Murray, image on back jacket cover.
Copyright granted by White Pine Press

Sleeping Virginia opossum with babies in her relaxed pouch
Public Domain

Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus from The History Channel’s “The Bible” Episode 3
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

White mouse eating birthday cake
Public Domain

John Thomas Peele “Feeding the Pets”
Public Domain

“The Dead Mouse” by Louise Leopold Bolly I 1793
Public Domain

The Beggar Girl
CCASA 2.0 and Fair Use Under the Untied States Copyright Law

types of cheeses from cheese tasting party
Public Domain

7 sacraments
Public Domain

vintage of father at the refrigerator
Public Domain

Vintage of Adam and Eve
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Jimson Weed by Georgia O’Keefe
Painted in 1936
Photographed by Zambonia on September 29, 2011
Public Domain

Mother Mary in the Phone Booth.
Photo shopped of two images , both Fair Use, by Christal Rice Cooper

Little girl pretending to be Mother Mary with the turtle.
Four images (all Fair Use ad Public Domain) photoshopped by Christal Rice Cooper

Annie Edson Taylor
Public Domain

The Incredulity of Thomas painting by Caravaggio
Public Domain

A view of the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls from the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Public Domain

Lithograph Original Antique Postcard from the 1930s and 1940s
Attributed to Kent Cottrell, born in 1887
Public Domain

Annie in the barrel – her head is visible
Public Domain

Annie after her successful trip over the Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Public Domain