After we distributed a link to our Spring 2016 catalog on Monday (click here), we received a number of comments and questions about the “buzz” around a book of poetry we’re working on by Jeanie Thompson.

There’s a lot to say about this project. Jeanie’s book is a cycle of poems written from the point of view of Helen Keller, illuminating events or insights she experienced during her extraordinary life. But it’s more than that. Jeanie paired all the poems with notes about the event or time in Keller’s life that inspired the poem. The poems are mesmerizing but just one part of the work.


Jeanie Thompson’s Myth of Water to be published in July 2016.

The Myth of Water has affected all of us who’ve had a chance to spend some time with the manuscript. As with all great works, it touches different people in personal ways. I studied Japanese and Journalism here at the Capstone and then spent most of my 20s in Osaka and Tokyo. Even as a native Alabaman, I never knew Keller had traveled to Japan. In the poem “I Promise,” we learn that Keller promised her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, on her deathbed that she’d travel to Japan and Korea to take their work with the deaf-blind to people there. Jeanie’s poem invokes the vivid mental pictures Keller might have imagined as she remembers Sullivan and sets foot in Japan for the first time.

For me, the poem invites recollections of the parts of my life in Japan that Helen could have experienced as well: the crispy texture of rice cracker grilled on a street corner, the supple pin-point of a pine needle in winter, the savory dry aroma of sandalwood smoke in a shrine.

By opening a door for you into Helen Keller’s lived experience, Jeanie’s poems can bring parts of your own life into more vivid focus. The Myth of Water is due out in July, and you’re going to hear a lot about it.