Miriam Vermilya was a retired grade school teacher and a well known painter and writer in Greenville, Ohio, where she lived. When she died unexpectedly in January of 1999, the Greenville Writers Group, of which she was a founding member, collected these poems into what became the winning manuscript of the 1999 Walt McDonald First-Book Competition in Poetry. The poems sum up VermilyaÆs reflections on her life, love, and marriage; the deaths of friends and family members; and, most poignantly, her own aging and death. Her voice is calm, practical, even humorous; never morbid, always generous. By her example she encourages us to feel, while we have time, the beauty of our own joys and sorrows.
from ôConsider Socratesö
. . . We all say
we want it to be sudden: a lightning
bolt to the brain, a stutter
in the arteries, then sleep, or
something like itùour hands still
clutching the rake or an atlas
turned to a map of Afghanistanù
but wouldnÆt it be better to know?
would be nice; youÆd want to burn
those letters nestled in a shoebox
on the closet shelf, finish up
the pint of SeagramÆs hidden
in the deskÆs third drawer and
trash the butt-sprung underwear
a derelict would be ashamed
to any accident. . . .
ôDo not go gentleö? Miriam VermilyaÆs poems are indeed gentle in their grappling with the great mysteries of love and death, but they are also tough, sharp, warm, and beautifully shaped. . . .These poems leave us with our own terrible, sweet division, caught between regret that their author did not live to see this first book published and gratitude that she left it to nourish and delight us.ù Jeff Gundy
Heartwood is full of poems that convey a fine sense of immediacy as if Miriam Vermilya were thinking the poem through as we are reading it. Her voice is sometimes witty, other times plangent, but always sharpened by a curiosity about what lies ahead. This is a rich collection, packed with fresh, stimulating lyrics.ùBilly Collins