Thursday, March 11, 2010

What is Gardner McFall reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Gardner McFall, author of new works including an opera libretto for an opera commissioned by Seattle Opera (music by Daron Hagen, story by Stephen Wadsworth), entitled Amelia, and a new book of poems, Russian Tortoise.

Her entry begins:
I've been reading On Kindness (FSG, 2009) by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor, a very readable, thought-provoking 114 page essay on the history of kindness and its place in our culture today. Written by a psychoanalyst and an historian, the book shows that while kindness has historically been essential to the Western idea of the Good Life, we are ambivalent about it in our own age of self-interest. The authors remind us of the reasons we need to embrace kindness for our children and ourselves since it is the key to our community and humanity. They draw on fascinating sources, without ever being...[read on]
Gardner McFall is the author of a book of poems, The Pilot's Daughter, and two children's books: Jonathan's Cloud and Naming the Animals.

She is the editor of Made With Words, a prose miscellany by May Swenson and has written the Introduction and Notes for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. She received her Ph.D. from New York University, her M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and her B.A. from Wheaton College. McFall teaches at Hunter College.

Among the early praise for Russian Tortoise:
The poems in Gardner McFall's Russian Tortoise are informed by a sense of fragility and loss. In this they may be said to be elegiac in tone. But these elegies are concerned not so much with lamenting the dead than with using the example the dead have provided to celebrate lives of common beauty and to do justice to the odd, the wayward, and the broken. The result is a wise and moving book.
—Carl Dennis

I have admired Gardner McFall's work since I first read The Pilot's Daughter—her first and important book, with its poignant poems exploring the love and grief of a daughter who lost her father to the conflict in Vietnam. I have long waited for her next book, and now, happily, here it is, filled with the rich, wise, and beautiful poems of maturity. Gardner McFall's poems tell us much we need to know about full vision, blocked vision, and the partial vision of being human.
—Jan Heller Levi

Their patient gravity enlivened by sly flickers of humour, the best poems in Gardner McFall's second collection turn an attentive gaze on creatures (the eponymous tortoise; a house cat; a water buffalo) whose significance feels totemic.... Many of these poems have an undertow of sorrow and loss, the more effective because of their restraint.
—Rachel Hadas, The Times Literary Supplement
Writers Read: Gardner McFall.

--Marshal Zeringue