The Story Behind A FICTION BOOK by Our Author
Phebe Hanson…on the making of a poet.
The gift of a little blue Five Year Diary with a lock and a key, given me for Christmas by my friend Janice Lindberg, set me on the path to poetry.
I was ten years old, sent away from my dad, brothers and sister to live with my elderly grandparents in Duluth, Minnesota. Things had been pretty gloomy in our house after our mother died, leaving behind four children–me the oldest at eight, brother David five, sister JoAnne three, and brother Milton six months, but this was even worse than staying on without mom.
Grandma and grandpa were Swedish immigrants who spoke broken English, had even stricter rules than my Norwegian Lutheran minister father, would not let me leave the back yard, except to go to school, accompanied by my grandma, who grasped my hand tightly as we crossed the street and wept uncontrollably when she bid me goodbye.
I was taken to church and Sunday school, of course, and there I met Janice Lindberg. That first Christmas she gave me the blue diary with the printed directive “Memory is elusive–capture it!” followed by the gentle advice to take but several moments each day to jot down a few lines, which would in years to come bring back the memories full-blown.
Obedient child that I was, I followed these instructions. On January 1, 1939, I dipped my stick pen into a bottle of black ink and began to write. I’ve been at it ever since, filling hundreds of books, from diaries with pre-printed dates to the blank books of my adult years.
From those books, poems eventually came forth. In 1973 my friend Jill Breckenridge invited me to a meeting of Women Poets of the Twin Cities. “Didn’t you used to write poems in college?” she asked. So I went to the meeting, even though I’d not written a poem for twenty-five years. “I’m not really a poet,” I said, “but I do keep a journal.” I was encouraged to bring my journal with me to the next meeting and read aloud from it. “It’s a journalpoem!” someone in the group exclaimed after my reading. I was happy to accept this pronouncement, even though I’d never heard the word “journalpoem” before.
So at 45 years of age, after years of writing steadily in all those blank books, I dared to think of myself as a poet, dared to read my poems aloud, dared to submit them for print. In 1985 my first book “Sacred Hearts” was published by Milkweed Editions.