Good morning, dear hearts! I have a special treat for you today! The author of an impressively expansive Biographical Historical Fiction story has presented me with a comprehensive response wherein he delves into his back-history as a writer inasmuch as the fuller scope of what defined this new release as it was being crafted to surmount a perspective of living history augmented against the fictional life of Belle.
As I read the book, I took a few issues with the in-definitive contrasts between the living and fictional lives but also, how some of the vision of the novel turnt a bit muddled to me. However, in the end – what stood out to me most was the realistic portrayal of Belle; a woman who should have lived and sadly, never did. You can see her step through the pages of the novel in such a kaleidoscope of emotional intuition – both through the fused internal thoughts threaded through her poetry and the arc of the narrative itself – which served to fill in the unknowns where the lines of poetry left ambiguous questions.
As you read this interview, you will have the pleasure of being treated to extracts straight out of the novel – where some of Belle’s poems are on display – the poetry of Ms Buhr Grimes truly felt ‘authentically Belle’ to me. A true credit to how she left such a very strong impression on me as a poetess who knows how to pull the depth and breadth of a soul through the spirit of how they harness their essence into the poems themselves.
It is my hope, in combination with my previously shared review and this conversation – you’ll have a fuller impression of what you shall find if you pick up this novel to read. It’s one of those moments where an author shared key sequences of the story to better acquaint the (perspective) reader with a strong visual impression of what his novel contains inasmuch as the reasons behind his choices to tell a story in the way it was delivered.
Born at the turn of the twentieth century in Glen Arbor, near the dunes of Northern Michigan, young Belle is the first child of a gruff stove works boss and a crippled mother who weaned Belle on the verse of Emily Dickenson. When a natural disaster results in her mother’s death and nearly takes the life of her younger brother Pip, Belle creates a fierce, almost ecstatic farewell song. Thus begins her journey to compose a perfect Goodbye to Mama.
At 21, Belle ventures south to Ann Arbor for university, with teenaged Pip in tow. There, she befriends Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden and finds that her poetry stands alongside theirs, and even with that of her hero, Dickinson. Her lyrics capture the sounds, sights, and rhythms of the changing seasons in the northern forests, amidst the rolling dunes by the shores of the Great Lake.
Despite the peace she finds, Belle also struggles in both homes. Up north, she battles her father who thinks a woman can’t run the family business; and clashes against developers who would scar the natural landscape. In Ann Arbor, she challenges the status quo of academic pedants and chauvinists.
Belle’s narrative brings these two places to life in their historic context: a growing Midwestern town driven by a public university, striving for greatness; and a rural peninsula seeking prosperity while preserving its natural heritage. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Boom, Belle’s story is hard to put down. Her voice and songs will be even harder to forget.
How did you initially create the capstone of Belle coming full circle in her life from her early tragic loss of her mother to how she defined her life through the adversities of her life and of History’s?
Dimond responds: I went away to college in Amherst from 1962 to 1966, where I learned more about the two great American poets I had studied briefly in English classes growing up in Ann Arbor, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. After Law School back home and several good careers, I turned in my seventh decade to writing fiction, including a historical novel: the two Amherst poets beckoned. Emily Dickinson lived in the family Homestead from her birth in 1830 to her death in 1886 and left more than 1800 unpublished poems there. Robert Frost, a college drop-out, joined the faculty of Amherst College in 1917 at age 43; despite leaving 4 times, he always came back to his academic home for the next 45 years. During his long life, Frost campaigned for his poetry at more than 1,000 public readings and talks; won the most ever Pulitzer Prizes, four; and read the first poem at a Presidential Inauguration. In 1892, Frost discovered Dickinson’s first series of published poems. Despite their long associations with Amherst, few other connections linked these two great American poets, except for the irony that most of their archives escaped the College. I therefore determined to write a novel to link Dickinson and Frost through a woman poet from yet another generation, born on December 30, 1899.
I grew up in Ann Arbor with the University of Michigan and summered in Glen Arbor amidst the Sleeping Bear dunes bay, and shore. They became the two settings to nurture and challenge Belle, her brother, their family and friends. At her invalid mother’s knee, Belle learned to love Emily Dickinson’s odd poems and to compose her own “Up North” songs. On her Mama’s tragic drowning in the Great Lake on January 4, 1913, in the opening scene of the novel, the 13-year-old Belle must swim her 6-year-old brother Pip she helped raise to shore. Late that night, a short, wild poem burst forth that captured one aspect of Belle’s several roiling emotions: the strange ecstasy she felt when the deep waters of the bay buoyed her up while swimming her little charge to safety. Read More