Reactions to the Truth

“Your poems were beautiful, but I can’t buy your book,” a woman said to me after my first reading from The Truth About Death.  “Sure you can,” I said.  “Just read one poem at a time if you have to,” I urged her.  Because I do want to sell the book, and because I do think it tells the truth about death.  I know that’s hard for many people.  “No,” she said.  “I just can’t even have it in the house.  I can’t handle it.”

In contrast, a woman I know through work came to that first reading and bought two books, one for herself, and one for friends who recently lost an adult son, as she did almost two years ago.  “I have never been to a reading before so it was nice to meet people who do write poetry,” she wrote to me two days later.  She went on, “I truly enjoyed reading your book.  I am just amazed at how profoundly honest you are with your thoughts and feelings, and of course only someone who has faced death can even begin to write about it as you have.  Losing  someone can be such a lonely and sad journey so I did find reading your book makes you realize you are not alone.”

I did a training in Rhode Island the week before last, and my good friend Deb, the Executive Director of the Coalition there bought a book.  She also wrote to me a few days later with the subject line of the email “blown away.”  “I just wanted to tell you how phenomenal your poems are…. I am ‘enjoying’ them, as emotionally brutal as they are, and savoring each one.”  Deb has never known me as a poet, only as a sister Coalition Director, so it meant a lot to me to hear from her about my poetry.

And just this morning, another widow who leaves nearby emailed me about the copy of the book she bought earlier this week.  She sent me a passage from her journal.  “The book has not been disappointing. Waited for it for months.  The Truth About Death.  I think it could be named The Truth about Love. Soulful, riveting language and content, so intimate, sexy. Painful. Her relationships are so rich. She says so much with so little. Her grounding in the wilderness where she lives gives me pause. I rave about where I live but do I inhabit these woods the way she and her Eric did?  I could not stop writing in my travel journal as I read it through the first time. Always a sign I am reading something terrific when it makes me crazy to write myself. Revised a few poems tonight and wrote two short new ones. It has been like taking a crash poetry workshop. I like her use of coma, no conjunctions. The coupling of things not usually put together as all my favorite poets do. The way the mind actually works, I think, before we squash our thoughts and refine them for public use.”

I realize this post could be taken as shameless self-promotion, and of course as I said, I do want to sell books.  But not just because they’re my books.  I believe in this book and its power to affect people in the ways my friends have written to tell me.  The truth is I want this book in the hands of people who need to hear this truth.


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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