Books/ GREATEST HITS 1981-2000
From the Author
In 2000 my longtime friend, poet Suzanne Rhodenbaugh, brought my work to the attention of Pudding House Publisher, Jennifer Bosveld. When Jennifer accepted me for inclusion in her GREATEST HITS chapbook series, she asked me to select twelve poems that had proved popular at readings and to write an introduction answering the two questions readers most frequently ask : What brought you to write? and How did each of these poems come into being? "About the Poems and the Author" is that introduction.
“About the Poems and the Author” -
An Introduction to Pamela Harrison Greatest Hits 1981-2000
(Pudding House Publications, Johnstown, OH, 2002)
By Pamela Harrison
I was born and raised on the wide dry plains of Oklahoma, a place where weather is a constant and vital concern—from the grinding ravages of drought to the immediate doom of tornado, lightning, and flash flood. There, the prairie runs far and flat to the western horizon, pressed by a vast and windy sky. People who live beneath that cataract of wind and light turn to leather and squint. My husband, a man of the north woods, feels desperate and exposed under that scouring sky. God’s eye, I call it, the eternal gaze of heaven. It shrinks one to a proper humility. Folks there talk plainly (if they talk at all), and their truths cut like flint.
A plains woman’s interest in outer weather soon coupled with my own childhood obsession: the secrets of my family’s inner weathers. I registered like a barometer minute changes of tone and heart in those I loved. By the sixth grade, I was fully determined to be a meteorologist, as serious and essential as the local celebrity on radio and TV whose word we awaited as though the very prophet spoke. Inaccurate forecasts, I learned, could cost a person’s life.
Years passed and my native interest in words and weather evolved into a love and need for poetry. Nothing else I knew could record the changes of season and light, mood and storm with comparable subtlety and satisfaction. I think Robert Frost said it right in his poem, “Tree at My Window”:
That day she put our heads together
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.
I am a watcher by nature. Observation and reflection are my instinctive responses to change. Naturally, I married a man of action, a general practitioner (like my father) committed to serving the poor and underprivileged at home and abroad. Especially abroad. Accompanying him to the Arctic, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America, I was often forced to reckon with both the limited store of my own practical gifts and the proper uses of words.
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