© 2024 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
00000179-e1ff-d2b2-a3fb-ffffd6b40000Four books. Four author interviews. One great summer of reading! WNIJ presents the 2013 Summer Book Series.Each Wednesday in June, Morning Edition host Dan Klefstad talks with a local author about their work, and adds it to his list of suggested summer reading.Our series begins June 5th with Marnie Mamminga of Batavia, who brings fond memories of Northwoods Wisconsin vacations to life on the pages of her memoir, Return to Wake Robin. In the weeks that follow, Dan talks with NIU English instructor John Bradley (The Cosmic Chronicles of Billy the Kidder - June 12); Beloit College English Professor Chris Fink (Farmer's Almanac - June 19); and NIU Professor Joe Bonomo (This Must Be Where My Obsession With Infinity Began - June 26).Listen to Dan's interviews each Wednesday this month during Morning Edition, following NPR News at 6:30 and 8:30am. Then return to this page to hear the authors read excerpts from their books. You'll also have a chance to meet these writers in person! Dan will join Marnie Mamminga at Rockford's Just Goods Fair Trade Marketplace on Thursday, June 6th from 3 to 5pm. Then, at the end of the month-long series, our remaining three authors - John Bradley, Chris Fink, and Joe Bonomo - will meet listeners at a writers panel event, Saturday, June 29th from 3 to 5pm at Books on First in Dixon. WNIJ's Dan Klefstad will be there, too, to moderate the discussion and take your questions and comments for the writers.Happy Summer Reading from WNIJ!

NIU poet publishes, alter ego still waits for "Editor" to reply

Amy Newman has published more than 200 poems. She is also a Presidential Research Professor at Northern Illinois University. Her alter ego, "Amy Newman," is less successful but clings to the hope that an editor will publish her work.

The real Newman is the author of a new collection of poems called Dear Editor. The poems are submission letters written by the character "Newman," who is trying to convince a fictional editor to publish her own poetry. Each of the letters reveals something about the character including her childhood memories, dreams and a desire for human contact.
They also highlight the character's failure to separate the tasks of writing a poem and a submission letter. "When I write a poem," says the real Newman, "I'm using a different mind than when I write a submission letter to the editor. I turn off that poetry mind because it's a generic template." Dr. Newman wondered what would happen if a character couldn't, or didn't, turn off that poetry mind when submitting her work. She says she started these poems as an exercise.
The poems/letters feature variations on recurring themes, including a chess game played by the character's grandfather. The grandfather alters the rules seemingly at whim. For example, in one letter he says the first move must be made by someone who doesn't know the rules. In another game, young children are prohibited from playing "because of the obvious difficulties."

I don't think he meant it at the time, but as I was a child, it confused me a little, with him setting up the board and clacking the queens midair, saying: Let's play!

Newman doesn't know how to play chess, but she transforms this lack of knowledge into a mystical experience for her character. "It's complex, it's beautiful, she would like to understand it," she says. "But she knows the full meaning of it is withheld from her." For Newman and her character, chess is a lot like poetry. "Poetry never satisfies the desire," she says, "but it's animated by wonder. This is like faith to her."
Faith is another theme.  Each poem, or letter, is filled with stories of Catholic saints related to the character by her grandmother. Newman says her character has tremendous respect for -- as she puts it -- the girl saints. "They can break into blossom and burst into fire at any sign of bullying," she says. Newman admits she shares her character's desire for a superpower against bullies.
Like the grandfather's chess rules, the grandmother's saints are sometimes make believe. Of these, most seem designed to punish the grandfather:

Saint Berry, she'd say, picking up a rook and swishing it around the board. Saint Berry, who protested the loss of her virginity by heaping ash and kindling on the dinner of her betrayer. She'd move the piece in the air and place it somewhere on a white square. All right old man, you got your way.

Like chess, these saints arise solely from Newman's imagination. "I'm Jewish," she says. "My grandmother wouldn't have told her anything about the Catholic saints and would've been confused by my interest probably."
Next Friday, June 22, our Summer Book Series continues with MollyMcNett's short-story collection One Dog Happy. Listen to the broadcast version during Morning Edition at 6:34 and 8:34.

Amy Newman, author of Dear Diary.

Good morning, Early Riser! Since 1997 I've been waking WNIJ listeners with the latest news, weather, and program information with the goal of seamlessly weaving this content into NPR's Morning Edition.