jeannine atkins and her friends, laura and rose

#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2010.

Why, yes. That would be Jeannine Atkins up there waving to us from atop that airplane. Of all our Potluck guests, Jeannine knows best how to make a dramatic entrance. And she’s not fashionably late or anything, which is quite surprising considering she had to travel back in time to bring us the two amazing women who appear in her poem: Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.

Today, Jeannine is sharing an excerpt from her recently released verse biography, Borrowed Names. You may remember my singing its praises on its official pub day. Since then, it has earned yet another *starred review*, this time from Horn Book! We’re absolutely thrilled for this author/poet/professor who dares to defy publishing odds against poetry and historical fiction. Just as Rose Wilder Lane once flew over San Francisco Bay strapped to the wing of an airplane, these days Jeannine Atkins is flying high on well-deserved praise.

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soup of the day: borrowed names by jeannine atkins!

“Can the past press closer than the present? Who is a daughter without a mother?” ~ from “Handful of Dirt,” Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins.


Alice Vanderbear reads to her daughter, Fluffy.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be wishing dear friend, Jeannine Atkins, a very Happy Book Birthday! Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters (Henry Holt, 2010), is officially out today!

Though this is Jeannine’s first book of poetry, Borrowed Names is by no means her first book. She’s published a number of collective biographies and picture books about other notable women, including, Anne Hutchinson’s Way (FSG, 2007), Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space (FSG, 2003), How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers (FSG, 2005), and Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists (Dawn, 2000).

Borrowed Names is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The poems are absolutely exquisite, far-reaching, quietly powerful, and undeniably moving — they reveal a poet with a rare, discerning sensibility and wickedly keen insight who, with just a few deft strokes, is able to paint riveting, multi-layered emotional landscapes.


    Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.

Focusing on the mother-daughter relationships of three extraordinary women born in the same year (1867) is both highly original and endlessly fascinating. Though Wilder, Walker, and Curie came from vastly different backgrounds and made their mark in distinctly different ways, they were all fiercely independent women who shared an unwavering devotion to work and family. Despite numerous personal, social, and economic challenges, they all raised remarkable daughters in a rapidly changing world.

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