In "Return of the Heroes," Walt Whitman refers to the casualties of the American Civil War: "the dead to me mar not. . . . / they fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass. . . ." In her new poetry collection, Jude Nutter challenges Whitman's statement by exploring her own responses to war and conflict and, in a voice by turns rueful, dolorous, and imagistic, reveals why she cannot agree.
Nutter, who was born in England and grew up in Germany, has a visceral sense of history as a constant, violent companion. Drawing on a range of locales and historical moments—among them Rwanda, Sarajevo, Nagasaki, and both world wars—she replays the confrontation of personal history colliding with history as a social, political, and cultural force. In many of the poems, this confrontation is understood through the shift from childhood innocence and magical thinking to adult awareness and guilt.
Nutter responds to Whitman from another perspective as well. It was Whitman who wrote that he could live with animals because, among other things, they are placid, self-contained, and guiltless. As counterpoint, Nutter weaves a series of animal poems—a kind of personal bestiary—throughout the collection that reveals the tragedy and violence also inherent in the lives of animals. Here, as in much of Nutter's previous work, the boundaries between the animal and human worlds are permeable; the urgent voice of the poet insists we recognize that "Even from a distance, suffering / is suffering." Here is both acknowledgment and challenge: distance may be measured in terms of time, culture, or place, or it may be caused by the gap between animals and humans, but it is our responsibility to speak against atrocity and bloodshed, however voiceless we may feel.
“In poem after poem, Jude Nutter bridges the gap between past and present, loss and reclamation, and does so in expansive, passionate lyrics full of clarity, imagination, and sureness of vision. She is, quite simply, one of the finest poets writing in America today. This is a powerful, poignant volume, each poem ‘a gesture of welcome’ that brings us home to the great healing powers of our language.” —Robert Hedin, author of The Old Liberators: New and Selected Poems and Translations and editor of the Great River Review
“Driven, almost tormented, by her sense of historical events, by what war accomplishes and destroys, Jude Nutter does the poet’s work of resurrection—she mourns and makes real with language some of the enormous losses suffered, and with her exceptional gifts brings some of the lost back to life to be thought of, considered, and remembered by her readers. It matters when such an accomplished poet insists we pay attention and then shows us what to attend to in this extraordinary new collection of poems.” —Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems
“The poems in Jude Nutter's I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitmanconsistently and beautifully re-imagine the poem of meditation on the atrocities of war. Nutter invokes, invites and revises Whitman's civil war poems through thoroughly contemporary and female perspectives. These poems haunt and inspire with a lush expansiveness that slams that old mind/body gap quite closed.” —Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of The Resurrection Trade