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Flashbacks: Echoes of Past Issues



BANKING THE FIRES OF MEMORIES a review by Emily Herring Wilson Claudia Emerson. Claude Before Time and Space. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2018. Heather Ross Miller. Women Disturbing the Peace. Hammond: Louisiana Literature Press, 2018.

EMILY HERRING WILSON’s books include The Three Graces of Val-Kill (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), Two Gardeners: Katherine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence: A Friendship in Letters (Beacon Press, 2002), and North Carolina Women Making History (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). She is a recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature and the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities. She lives in WinstonSalem, NC. HEATHER ROSS MILLER is author of many books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including Lumina: A Town of Voices (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011; reviewed in NCLR Online 2012). She was a creative writing and literature professor at Pfeiffer University, The University of Arkansas, and Washington and Lee University. She grew up Badin, NC, and, now retired, resides in Albemarle, NC. Read her story “Carmen Miranda in the Twinkling of an Eye” in NCLR 1997.

ABOVE Heather Ross Miller and Emily Herring

in a class taught by Randall Jarrell at UNC Greensboro in 1948

We were girls in Hinshaw Hall at the Woman’s College a halfcentury ago, a lifetime ago, yesterday’s memory, and now Heather Ross Miller and I are old arthritic women, doting grandmothers, and long-distance friends, and still sending our poems for the other’s approval. How could I not feast in one sitting on the sweet and bitter taste of her new collection, Women Disturbing the Peace? Miller’s poems carry me away like a flash flood, like wildfire, fog, thunder, lightning, hail, brimstone, and snow, “soft as a baby’s eyelash.” There are no poems like hers, and you may or may not like every one – some are too tough for my own weakness for sentimentality, which does not offend her – but you will be in awe of what she knows, what she remembers, and what she imagines. She has the courage to say what she thinks, and my Phi Beta Kappa classmate, Woodrow Wilson Fellow, is, make no mistake about it, a thinker. The Bible, fairy tales, encyclopedias, old books, new books, archival manuscripts, letters, recipes, maps, superstitions, nightmares, astronomy, medicine, law, song titles, home remedies, and

cultural identities only begin to name the range of her interests. And, I think, if you are willing for her to disturb your peace, you will be changed in a heartbeat, rising from the dead, resurrected, born again – a woman who knows how to survive the best and the worst of what life assigns us, deserved and undeserved, and always mystifying. Miller throws darts with such force and precision that I think if she were blindfolded she’d still hit every bullseye. Her first lines and her last lines have been her most distinguishing characteristic as long as I have read her poems, and even with my every nerve on edge to guess how they will all turn out, I am still surprised – by pleasure and by fear. She already knew how to knit together the lines of a poem before we studied with Randall Jarrell, but he rewarded her for it. He said she was the best poet he ever taught. Miller must have written thousands of poems, given the fact that she writes every day of every year, which I know because they come to me in plain and fancy wrappers: I can feel the heat in the mailbox, I can hear their groans and sighs and exorcisms.

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.