The Alcott Family Arrives

  Poems by Ann Struthers
    isbn 0-9636959-0-8,   Coe Review Press
    80 pages, illustrated perfect-bound, $10
Poems copyright © 1993 by Ann Struthers
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Fruitlands Commune
Harvard, MA

I find this collection brilliant, moving, poignant. The book is a jewel.
    Kathleen Spivack

Ann Struthers' poems are quick with luminous detail, direct language, passionate attention, and a rare sense of humor. Anyone who cares about poetry will want to read them.
   Robert Dana, author of Starting Out for the Difficult World

Ann Struthers has sifted through the dust of the past like an archaeologist, and has brought out fragments: the betraying details of lives we thought we knew -- lives of men and women who created our country's first golden age of literature. In her best poems, the Alcott family does, indeed, arrive. They come with a ring of friends to appear before us, fleshed out: that Concord circle who gave us Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Walden, Leaves of Grass, Emerson's essays, the poems of Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and such delights of our youth as "Snowbound," "Hiawatha," and Little Women.
    Nancy Price, Des Moines Register

A tribute to the women whose contributions to the advancement of American letters through personal sacrifice have gone unrecorded.
    Sandra Adelmund, Iowa Woman

The Kitchen of Truth and Righteousness   [at Fruitlands Commune]

Abba Alcott, the judge's privileged daughter,
now bakes bread without yeast
to save those minute lives,
scrubs pans with sand--,
can't use soap made from animal fats.
spends most of her daylight hours
propitiating the cookstove,
squatting like Caliban in the kitchen,
always demanding attention--he needs chips
for kindling, armloads of firewood, chopped
and carried for his greedy belly,
ashes to be emptied, grates to be cleaned,
stovepipe to be taken down, scrubbed out
to remove explosive soot,
and always blacking for his iron face.

Cross, dead-tired, she writes in her journal,
"A woman may labor daily in the kitchen
for the cause of truth and righteousness,
but she lives neglected, dies forgotten.
A man who never performed one self-denying act,
but who has accidental gifts of genius...
is crowned with laurel, while scarce a stone
may tell where she lies."

But she is not ready to die,
saves her good humor for the children
whose whoops of pleasure she loves,
laughs and shouts with them,
but once in a while when she passes
the grinning stove as she hurries about
her kitchen duties, she kicks its iron foot--
but lightly, so as not to hurt her own toes
inside the cloth slippers, which they all wear,
because leather exploits cows.

Monday Night Club

George William Curtis remembers:
Bronson Alcott pronounces a "saying,"
loosing a mosquito swarm of words;
"The Honorable member
for Blackberry Pastures (Thoreau)
responds by some keen and graphic observation,
while the Olympian host...beams silent encouragement."
After that--quiet, except for the scrape
of dry branches against the window glass.

Hawthorne, "a statue of night and silence,
sits, a little removed, under a portrait
of Dante," the rings of hell flaring
in its background, the ghosts of the great
like mist. He gazes imperturbably upon the group.

Emerson needs the spark of their friendship;
believes the present can be redeemed
by liberal philosophy.
Hawthorne feels the past smolder in the bone
threatening conflagration at any moment,
knows it unforgiving, insatiable.
They eat Emerson's russet apples gravely,
then disappear into the solemn night,
do not know they are the true heroes
of another circle.

Revised: September 20, 1997.
Copyright © 1997 by Terry Heller.
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