My new novel, The Prophecy of the Wolf, has been released by All Things That Matter Press! It’s available now at Otherworlds Books and More and Novel Bay in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and Yardstick Books in Algoma, Wisconsin. Readers can also order it from almost any online venue.
I spent three years working on a historical novel that is set in the mid to late 1600s on the Door Peninsula and Washington Island as famous French priests and fur traders started to seriously impact the traditional lives of Native Americans. The Neshnabek, or Potawatomi Tribe, are at the heart of the story as Ogima tells about how he, as a young man, became embroiled in the affairs of Quapaw, a powerful waubeno that has had a vision given to him by a storyteller wolf. Quapaw, because of his shaman visions, starts to try to keep the Neshnabek from falling prey to the fur trade, the beguilement of French trade, and power of Christian conversion. The novel explores the largest themes possible as event follows event, eventually reaching a crescendo that has become a distant legend even in our time. In the process the lifestyle and beauty of Neshnabek civilization and culture becomes a beautiful backdrop to the action.
At our granddaughter Sophia's wedding, Ethel wrote one poem for the wedding that she read out loud during the ceremony. A friend of our daughter Mary read another poem by Ethel that was written 55 years ago during our courtship. Then, at the reception I sat down and wrote a poem commemorating the event as the mariachi band played and people people danced as sunlight streamed out of the clouds for the first time all day.
The poem Ethel read:Hope
today your great, great granddaughter
is getting married
to a fine, young man,
and they promise their love
is greater than their parents’ love
and their grandparents’ love.
They promise they will be happier
than their parents were
or their grandparents.
And they promise their children
will be loved more than all
the ancestors put together.
this is their promise,
and this is our hope.
The poem from 55 years ago:
How Could I Know?
It looks to me as though
you’ve been around, perhaps,
since time began—
and I have lived at least
Oh? Only that much time?
I’m sure there was no life
before for you or me.
How could I know your face
As well as some old rock
I’ve seen hang, clinging
to a mountain wall,
and I know what wave of brightness,
or of darkness, to expect there
waiting for me.
You step and make some rounded move.
I know beforehand which way to go.
How could I know? Unless. . .
You’ve been around, perhaps,
since time began.
I know I’ve lived at least as long.
The poem I wrote:At My Granddaughter’s Wedding
First the bald eagle above the bay,
water dancing light on lines of waves,
then cranes in the greening field,
Babies and parents communicating
with legs, moving necks, and wings in the sun,
and then the rumor of storms
brewing black clouds in the north,
stirring with big winds.
But then, after a night of worry,
the ceremony was to be outside,
the wedding day came, cloudy,
a fifty percent chance of rain.
But then the rain didn’t come.
Wedding roses lined paths
to the small wooden church.
Then, the words as ancient
as human spirits, were spoken
by the bride and groom,
and then the sun came out
as the mariachi celebration began,
as clouds thinned,
and my granddaughter and her love danced
as music rose into an evening sky—
and love was everywhere.
In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams has just been awarded the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award for 2019. The award has been around since 1944 and is awarded by the Wisconsin Council of Writers. There have been a handful of years where the Council did not believe an award was warranted.
My publisher, All Things That Matter Press, suggested that I ask my friends and followers to repost this news. I am certainly excited about having this kind of validation for my writing and particularly for this novel. Bennison Books published The Weirding Storm, my epic poem about dragons, kickstarting a writing career that I had largely put aside due to my work with the tribal colleges and universities. I feel a great debt of gratitude to both Bennison Books and All Things That Matter Press for publishing my books. At this point in time I have four novels, one non-fiction book, and two epic poems in print.
In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams is about a black fisher community that settled in the remote wilderness off the coast of the Door Peninsula on Washington Island in the 1850s. Primarily about Joshua Simpson, who is fourteen years old at the start of the novel, it tells the story of an escape from slavery on a Missouri plantation and then the founding of a community on the shores of Death’s Door, a passage between the body of Lake Michigan and the tip of the Door Peninsula.
Under the leadership of the charismatic black Preacher, Tom Bennett, and the help of the Underground Railroad, Joshua, his family, and the other escaped slaves find their dream of New Jerusalem on the island, and then find that discovering paradise is only the first part of their journey.
This, for me, is a great, great day, and I certainly want to thank the Wisconsin Council of Writers. They have made my year!
All Things That Matter Press (ATTMP) has just sent me the cover for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, my new novel about the black fisherman community that settled on Washington Island off Door County before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. ATTMP is shooting for an early August release. After better than sixteen drafts, I’m ready!
“The storyteller moon,” the old man said.
We sat upon the long-grassed beach and stared
Into a sky now dark, the fiery red
of sunset flung at stars the sky had snared
Into a symphony of silver stained
Into a river of eternal light
Above the song of waves that, lapping, trained,
Like time, into the shores of moon-struck night.
“No, not a storyteller moon.” He sighed.
“That comes just as the winter starts to howl.
That’s when you tell the stories that are tied
Into a tree frog’s peeps or black bear’s growl.”
Moon-struck, star struck, we heard the lullabye
Of waves absorbing us into the sky.
Last night Ethel and I traveled to Newport Beach where the Door peninsula looks out on the wild waters of Death’s Door, Buttes de Mortes. Francha Barnard had invited us to join her and other Door County poets to write poems beneath a full harvest moon.
On Saturday night the moon had been full and orange as it rose over Door County, but, after a summer that has seen the corn shriveled from drought, we drove up the peninsula to the park beneath cloudy skies that rained off and on. By the time we reached Newport Beach it was clear that none of us were going to take lawn chairs in the darkness down to the beach unless we wanted to ruin the tablets we’d all brought with us and got thoroughly soaked.
Instead we went to the ranger’s front office, talked awhile, and then, stymied from our effort to write poems beneath a full moon, listening to waves singing onto beach sand, we sat down and tried to write a poem nevertheless. Both Ethel and I, in the miracle of being with other poets, succeeded.
As dip-si-doodled as a particle
Inside the zipping universal whiz,
I stretched into a rusty horse and peered
At cultured woods that felt the guttural,
Mute roaring of a monster’s metal fizz
That jawed into a garden’s winsome weird.
Then, as an old farm’s walls grew images,
And glass shapes whirled with colored curves of light,
I felt creation’s fires congeal and mold
Into a spirit drawn from circuses
Born from the striving of an artist’s flight
Through zoos of sight, sound, thoughts, the manifold
Of what could be if chaos suddenly
Became a rusty horse whose eyes can see.