Monday, 18 February 2013

Melissa Green, poet extraordinaire, writes memoir

I began to tell you the other day about The Linen Way currently being prepared for publication: a memoir by acclaimed US poet, Melissa Green. It's been a fantastic privilege to work with Melissa in the spit and polishing of her fine prose, a filigree setting for the gems of poetry included in the text, poems written at critical junctures of her life: following the death of her father; on being released from the hell of mental illness to write again; on the death of beloved friend, mentor and giant of poetry, the Russian exile, Joseph Brodsky.

Melissa talks in her memoir about the despair that has dogged her – 'a bright and bookish child' who grew up in a chaotic household – all her life:

I have lived with two deep, emotional undercurrents running side by side like tracks of a train. One was my absolute belief that I would write a shelf full of books—from the age of six, I saw them lined up in our town library and knew they would be there forever—and the other was a bedrock conviction that it was too excruciating to be alive and that I might at any moment end my life. 

The blessing for us is that Melissa has managed to stay on the side of life, writing her exquisite poems. Another Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott also took a close interest in her work. After reading the final draft of the elegy to her father (the now-celebrated The Squanicook Ecologues) when she was still young and uncertain of her work, he finally lifted his head and roared, ‘This, darlin’, is one fuckin’ great elegy. Maybe one of the two or three best written in this century! It’s fuckin’ great!’

You can read the Prologue to the Ecologues here.

For years Melissa lived with her grandmother.

No one believed that my grandmother’s house could really be black. Even the house painters were sure the stained shingles were charcoal gray until they took a chip to the hardware store to match it, and returned with cans of black stain. … Her black house became my prison and my sanctuary, she both my warder and the reason I could stay alive.

Melissa no longer inhabits the black house except in metaphor now and then and not without a fight. Ratty is sitting outside the one he asked me to draw, nervously hoping for Melissa to happen by so he can show her the lines he scratched for Lily the Pink on the inside of a cornflake packet, now rolled and beribboned.

Melissa has been one of the Tuesday poets for some time and you can read more of her work here.


Mary McCallum said...

THIS IS THE BEST NEWS!!! How exciting - honestly, Penelope - I must have felt you post this - I had a sudden strong urge to find out what Melissa was doing - was checking out her blogs - googled... and there, the news about The Linen Way and Rosa Mira... I talk about it on tomorrow's blog post on O Audacious Book.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Thank you, Penelope, for being Melissa's publisher and publicist and friend. Thank you, Ratty, for taking a cue from her and her work to produce your own writings. She will be along soon, I'm sure. This is wonderful news, publication of THE LINEN WAY. No wonder there seemed a richer light in the world this morning. xo

susan t. landry said...

hello, hello--another excited response from one of the many FOMs (friend O' melissa's). I knew this was in the works, and i am so pleased to see it here officially: do you have a publication date yet for The Linen Way?thank you so much...

Penelope said...

Mary, Marylinn and Susan, your excitement is heartwarming. It's thrilling to know that Melissa has loving and sensitive readers on tenterhooks for her book. Thanks each of you for saying so. The publication date will be somewhat according to the winds that blow, Susan, but all is quietly progressing. April seems realistic.