Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prairie paen

picture of cover of Letters to a Young Madman by Paul Gruchow
One of the Twin Cities' newspapers had a long article yesterday about Paul Gruchow and his recently published memoir, Letter to a Young Madman. I've read most, if not all, of his previous work: Journal of a Prairie Year, The Necessity of Empty Places, Boundary Waters, Worlds Within a World and Grass Roots. At the time I was reading his words, which magically brought me once again emotionally close to so many of the places that I love, I wasn't aware of Paul's demons and the way he would eventually lose his struggles with them. I was, however, able to grow increasingly envious of his ability to write the way I wished I could. He always seemed to have an amazing ability to be anchored in place, often a prairie place. I still remember skating the line between wishing I could write like Paul and wishing I were Paul so I could learn from the inside how he did it. It was only a little bit later I learned he tragically had taken his own life. Paul is among a handful of writers who have inspired me to try to emulate writing about places in My Minnesota and how special they are. I am, and always will be, in his debt. I'm looking forward to reading his memoir to learn more about how to live graciously under duress. Last spring, I finished a suite of poems, dedicated to Paul, about prairie grasses. They turned out well enough that they were winners in the Prairie Sampler contest for which I had written them. Thanks, Paul. I couldn't have done it without you.