Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – New Poems
In McGillicuddy’s latest collection of poems, we find ourselves immersed in those final days of her husband’s life, and we witness a woman who is exuberant about life and courageous toward death. She displays these qualities enhanced by religious belief, and by the conviction that if she sings to him, he will surely will hear her. The book focuses on love and marriage and, alas, on widowhood. It is also a book about living with grief. For all of us there is this question: What is “a good death”? In this book, it is a love-filled life.
—Jack Estes, Publisher, Pleasure Boat Studio
Whoever has grieved for someone deeply loved will find a friend in these poems, and in their author. When Elaine McGillicuddy’s husband died, she began writing as a way to go on living. This third book reflects her journey through grief “and into love.” Love was important earlier, but these poems are more quietly grounded in faith. In effect they make one poem, with sorrow and pain still there, but widening now into the mysteries of death and abiding love. Her thought is serious and her words plain. Not a poem in this fine and welcome collection is wasted.
—William Bridges, author of The Landscape Deeper In; Selected Poems, 1974-2004
SING TO ME AND I WILL HEAR YOU – New Poems By Elaine G. McGillicuddy
Reviewed by Gloria Hutchinson (Published in the July/August 2015 Issue of CORPUS Reports www.corpus.org)
If the title of this fine volume of poetry has a familiar ring, perhaps that is because it is the third book in a trilogy written by Elaine McGillicuddy and bearing the same beautiful title: SING TO ME AND I WILL HEAR YOU. Her husband Francis had spoken those words to her during his final weeks of enduring bone cancer. The words she sang were “Set me as a seal on your heart. . .for love is stronger than death” (Song of Songs 8:6).
Since Francis’ passing on January 3, 2010, his widow has reflected how deeply that seal on her heart is etched. Her trilogy combines two volumes of poetry with a memoir in which hers and Francis’ 41-year love story is told. After publishing her first volume of poems, she realized that the poems “would not stop coming.” As Yevgeny Yentushenko has observed, “A poet’s autobiography is [her] poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.”
Each of this new book’s four thematic sections offers an appealing selection of lyrical, elegiac and narrative works, all rooted in the garden of the poet’s grieving, but increasingly joyful, life as a widow.
Her progress is clear in “What Would You Do?” (p. 80) as she questions whether or not to seek another mate. She recalls that she had thought “I’ll write my books, then die./But now I know it’s time to let that go. . .” In “What Does It Mean?” (p. 69), she breaks down the meaning of her husband’s death into two heart-wrenching lines, four gut-twisting words): “Inconsolable loss / Irreplaceable him.”
SING TO ME AND I WILL HEAR YOU – New Poems will provide companionship and comfort for those who are mourning the loss of an irreplaceable partner. It will prompt many tears, tease out a few chuckles, and erect uncounted road signs for those who are recovering from the kind of loss Elaine McGillicuddy knows well.
With unfailing honesty and courage, she has illustrated the truth of poet Mary Oliver’s insight for us: “[Poetry] is an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
(Reviewer Gloria Hutchinson is the author of several books, including most recently Damage Done: Suicide of an Only Son.)
Readers’ responses to SING TO ME AND I WILL HEAR YOU – New Poems
Your new poems are so lucid, touching, fresh and honest….without a trace of affectation or manipulation of the readers’ sensitivities. You’re rendering such a service to all of us who have lost or know in the not too distant future we shall lose a beloved mate. You give us a way to both feel the loss and yet keep the beloved one with us. Robert M. Schaible Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities, University of Southern Maine
These poems are even more profound than those in the first book. They feel so simple, clear, and right. There is no strain, no effort, no pretensions.These are a great gift to us all. Thank you! Please don’t stop writing poems. This book is very compelling. CR
I took with me to bed your newest book, and just reading a few of your poems, moved me so. Your honesty, and the simplicity of your telling, as well as the love, it is over whelming in its beauty… I especially love Birthdays, for it feels like all is meant to be. Such good work for you to share with the world! MG
I’ve been reading the first of the poems, and enjoying them very much. I wanted to comment a little since soon, family is arriving from afar. Loved “held me up/as one a cup in ”You Held Me Up.” Not just the pleasing rhyme, but the immediate sense of all a cup (and a beloved) can signify and contain. Such a tactile image. And the other near rhymes – lips and sip, felt and held, free and me – reinforce the sense of closeness. “Only three remain/none of them him” stood out for me, too, the absence so heartbreaking, yet not distressing. And then when I came to “The five of us gather/in my hotel room” I thought that was the end. So strong, I thought, contrasting that generic modern space with the richness of family and ancestry. And then the double sense of “gather” – assemble (congregate) with others, and reassemble (put back together) the past. In both “Symptoms” and “Mittens” there is a wonderful appreciation of others, whom we often take for granted, but with whom, with just a little effort, we can establish a meaningful bond. A bond, too, that complements and even reinforces, the bond that is the theme of the book. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the poems, and will continue to read them as time permits. DB
Your poems offered me a joyful, engaging, pleasurable trip that demonstrated the essence of good poetry in my eyes — accessibility and profound thoughts. I started reading them in no particular order, just jumping around, but then quickly settled in to reading them from front to back, in the order you want me to read them. That’s when I knew I was hooked! DR
So many of these poems engender in me a desire to hover about them as a bee hovers about a flower’s stamen, to find the nourishing sustenance offered in both word and metaphor. Perhaps there is a little Emily Dickinson in you: brevity and tightening of language. Moreover, your vulnerability (particularly relative to love’s happening between yourself and your soul-mate: e.g. “A Widow’s Way”) surfaced in several of your poems: I found this moving that you allowed truth its say. In “When My Time Comes” the phrase “…will I take Death’s hand and enter in the Ballroom joyful in knowing you’re waiting for me there” was wonderfully poignant. Particularly, I enjoyed “The Plan” as in it you reference both Augustine and Psalm 42—the 7th verse is a favorite suggesting for me those depths within myself calling to the deeps beyond the stars. “Tracking Wonder” is worthy of a Rilkian applause! MS
Readers’ Responses to books and interviews
Just a few random notes on your memoir and two collections of poetry. I enjoyed them thoroughly. Your passionate and spiritual pilgrimage a deux gave me much food for thought.
The poetry and the memoir interlock and lend strength and resonance to each other. . . . Your poems are moving psalms of love distilled from your 41 years together. Or if you like, a personal Song of Songs. We should all be so lucky.
Lucid, intense, plain-spoken and honest, the poems and memoir made me feel I was drawn into your life, to use your phrase. I concur with your sentiments in SITTING MATTERS and TWO MOMENTS. I also felt the grace of your last suppers and loved your last poem THE PLAN which focused everything at the end. . . . I would call your poems and writing, poetry for the soul which helps us “let God be God.”
Your writings deserve a wide audience. They will help many people.
After engaging your souls through the medium of words, it was invigorating to meet (hear and see) both of you in the flesh in the 2005 Susan Hirsch’s interview with you and Francis. Permit me to comment: I noted throughout the interview that Francis’s hands were up-folded on his lap in a quiet, prayerful fashion…that reflected his gentle, thoughtful spirit, – a wonderful counterpoint to your expansive, animated and eloquent presentation, which is not to say that you are not gentle and thoughtful too. I also observed that he watched and listened to you in a rapt fashion that conveyed the depth of his love.
If these remarks are intrusive forgive me, – just the ramblings of grizzled old judge who has gotten used to scrutinizing people in the witness stand for 25 years and can’t shake the habit.
James Clarke, retired Judge, poet and writer, author of The Juried Heart