Marquette poet pens new book

Marquette poet Russell Thorburn shows the cover of his new book, “Let It Be Told in a Single Breath.” The book will be published by Cornerstone Press. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)



Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Changing characters and storylines make up a new book of poems written by Marquette poet Russell Thorburn.

Titled “Let It Be Told in a Single Breath,” Thorburn’s book follows other accomplishments, such as being the first poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula and a National Endowment for the Arts recipient.

The book will be published by Cornerstone Press, based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Steven White of the Metro Detroit area created the cover art.

“It’s like a long novel of multiple characters,” Thorburn said.

Thorburn said that after submitting his manuscript, it took only about two days until he heard from Ross Tangedal, director and publisher of Cornerstone Press, who told Thorburn he accepted his work for publication.

The book blends fictional characters with real-life experiences, Thorburn said, with a geographic focus on the U.P., Detroit and Los Angeles.

Notes that fill part of the book give background details on the poems, such as “Inside Tumbleweed.” This poem, he wrote, was written while walking in the “deep fine sand” of the Kelso Dunes at the Mojave National Preserve.

“In my floppy sunhat I felt like a naturalist or Walt Whitman ready to write a poem of an exuberant experience observing sand the color of bone,” Thorburn wrote. “There were traces of small animal prints, squiggly lines at times, or barely anything at all for the eye to see. The sand blew away and came back from the mountains, as if God were writing his own poem for us to read.”

Thorburn also includes poetry about the former Old Marquette Inn, now the Landmark Inn, along Front Street. In fact, he used to work at the inn before the front desk was computerized.

One poem is titled “John Keats One Evening Beheld Lake Superior.”

“This is kind of an imaginary poem of (poet) John Keats living there too,” Thorburn said.

Another important character in his book is the Michigan poet Jim Harrison.

“I met him at the hotel three different times — in the bar, of course,” Thorburn said, with those meetings taking place over a span of three decades.

Harrison is mentioned in Thorburn’s poem, “Wandering the Yellow Dog,” with Thorburn noting that Harrison wrote of the Russian poet Sergei Yesenin, who hanged himself after writing his last poem in blood.

“Harrison was in debt, unpublished, living on a hardscrabble farm in northern Michigan, and back from Leningrad,” the poem reads. “Everything’s so fragile except ropes, noted the poet once, who now tightens a noose from moonlight and wears it round his neck in my dream of him, like gray paraffin.”

Thorburn also writes about a snowy owl as well as musicians such as Richard Manuel of The Band and Bob Dylan.

Peter Markus, a writer who lives in downstate Trenton, wrote a testimonial for the new book.

“What Thorburn brings to his subject matter moves beyond knowing and bleeds over into a way of seeing and saying and breathing,” Markus wrote. “When I need to know who else in the world is feeling alive in the moment and nostalgic about the past and who wishes to celebrate those who’ve come before us, I know I can always turn to the poems of Russell Thorburn to make me believe that poetry does indeed matter, that it is still a living, breathing way of being in the world.”

“Let It Be Told in a Single Breath” is available for presale from Sept. 15 to Jan. 15. Email cornerstone.press@uwsp.edu for details.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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