Ancient Poem Is At The Heart Of ‘Read With Me’ Novel

When a poet writes a novel, it is pure to anticipate the story to incorporate a poem or some reference to poetry. For her debut novel, poet Marydale Stewart makes use of a 10th Century verse, “The Wanderer,” as a logo for certainly one of her fundamental characters.

Stewart’s guide, The Wanderers, is our Read With Me choice for December.

Her character, medieval research professor Kurt Schafer, is fascinated by “The Wanderer,” an Anglo-Saxon poem a few warrior knocked unconscious throughout a battle.

“He wakes up and he’s alone,” Stewart stated, “and he spends the next several years of his life looking for someone who knew him.”

One night, Kurt exhibits a contemporary translation of the poem to Sarah, a instructor who befriends him.

He who has tried it is aware of

how merciless is

sorrow as a companion

to the one who has few

beloved associates:

the trail of exile holds him,

under no circumstances twisted gold,

a frozen spirit

not the bounty of the earth.

Stewart says the poem in all probability was written within the north of England. “It’s a very cold setting and, in the part of the poem that Sarah reads with Kurt, the narrator describes himself as a frozen spirit,” she stated, “and that’s what has happened to Kurt.”

Kurt turns into a “frozen spirit” within the Prologue, shortly after coming residence from highschool:

He questioned if his father was house, knocked flippantly on the closed door to the bigger of the 2 bedrooms. Sometimes his father slept through the day, if he’d had a nasty night time. No response, so he went slowly in.

A surprising, foul odor hit him like a heavy curtain.

His subsequent impression was that his father had left in an uncommon hurry, altering garments and throwing the previous ones in a heap on the ground. Then he noticed the immense pool of blood spreading, following the slight slope of the ground.

His father lay on the ground with half his face gone. His previous handgun lay within the pooling blood.

The subsequent time we see Kurt — 12 years later — he is assembly his father’s sister, Eva, for the primary time. During dinner with Eva’s buddies, Kurt describes his father’s traumatic childhood. The story begins in 1961 when Kurt’s father Otto and Eva received minimize off from the West when the Berlin Wall went up.

Kurt took a breath. “My father,” he stated, “grew up in an … orphanage, well, actually, a sort of camp, in Germany.” He glanced at Eva whose face crumpled for a second. “My grandparents were killed, we think probably for being critical of Khruschev and the German Democratic Republic, and then my father was taken and placed in this special children’s camp. He was about six years old.”

“A re-education camp, it was called by the Stasi,” Stewart stated, referring to the key police. “And he was abused in many ways. When he grew up and had Kurt, he couldn’t shake his past and probably had PTSD.”

Eva prevented detention and ultimately left for the U.S., settling in northern Illinois. After the Berlin Wall got here down, Otto moved to Canada together with his spouse — Kurt’s mom — whom he later divorced. Otto remarried however hid his previous from Kurt and his stepmother. Nevertheless, by taking his personal life, he transferred his “baggage” to his son.

“Anyone who has experienced a suicide of a friend, or a family member, has an irrational sense of guilt,” Stewart stated.

This guilt might clarify Kurt’s conduct together with his newly-discovered household, and their buddies. One minute he is light-hearted, the subsequent considerably aloof. He additionally seems to have problem connecting on an emotional degree. Sensing this, Eva invitations Kurt to a therapeutic driving middle she owns. The middle helps individuals with PTSD, lacking limbs, and cerebral palsy study to experience horses.

During one go to, Kurt finds himself main a horse named Trooper again to the stalls. The middle’s supervisor, Sky, helps him. Then she tells him to remain put for a second.

When she returned, she was carrying a plastic caddy containing two brushes, an oval rubber currycomb, a hoofpick, a bottle of liniment, a mane comb, and a sweat scraper. She set it on the ground in entrance of Trooper, moved to the horse’s aspect, unbuckled the girth, and lifted the saddle off.

“There,” she stated to Kurt. “He’s ready to be groomed.” She gave him a large smile, as if she’d simply wished him a cheerful birthday.

Stewart says she as soon as boarded horses at a secure in Byron that had an identical program. “Riders of all ages — adults and children — can benefit from this kind of introduction to horses and riding, physically and emotionally,” she stated.

Caring for animals and dealing with them is a theme all through Stewart’s novel. “I’ve had enough experience watching people react to the animals they’re with to understand there’s a mystic connection between all creatures,” she stated, “and the idea of closely associating with an animal brings us together with a kind of core of understanding — not just of living creatures, but of the earth itself.”

Stewart says scripting this novel was very totally different from the writing she’s accustomed to. In an interview with WNIJ, she took pains to keep away from implying that poetry is straightforward.

“When we write poetry, we write it over and over and over again until we get it the way we want it. But writing a novel is much harder, because there are so many different things going on at once,” she stated. “You’re sort of a juggler. You’ve got the plot, and you’ve got the characters who you’ve already created — but who have a tendency to take off on their own. And then you have the narrative arc, which is keeping that story going without faltering, and that’s a very difficult thing to do sometimes.”

Stewart, nevertheless, is undaunted; she’s writing a sequel to The Wanderers.

Marydale Stewart, writer of three poetry collections, was one of many winners of WNIJ’s first poetry contest. She lives in Spring Valley.

Next month, writer Kyle L. White returns to our “Read With Me” collection with Neighbor As Yourself, a set of essays.

As all the time, we welcome your feedback within the area under. And when you speak about our collection authors and books on social media, please use #WNIJReadWithMe.

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