Blood Sisters of the Republic
by Wendy Willis

A Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection

ISBN 978-1-935708-64-3
9 x 6 paperback, 104 pages
Press 53 . PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130-0314

Wendy Willis
Wendy Willis splits her time between her roles as mother, poet, and advocate for democracy. She is the Executive Director of the Policy Consensus Initiative, a national non-profit organization devoted to improving democratic governance. In addition to publishing poetry and essays in a variety of national and regional journals and serving as an adjunct fellow in poetry at the Attic Institute, Willis has served as a federal public defender and as the law clerk to Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr. of the Oregon Supreme Court. She graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law Center and holds a B.A. from Willamette University. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, his son and her two young daughters. 
Cover artist Patty Maher is a self-taught photographer based in Caledon, Ontario, and derives inspiration from the beautiful countryside in which she lives. In this environment she is moved to tell stories through the art of portraiture  stories that explore the boundaries between real life and the otherworldly, the surreal and the fantastic. Patty's work has been featured in numerous online and print publications.

Patty says of her process: "When I take self portraits, I usually get inspired by a basic idea: it could be a prop or a location that inspires me, or a visual idea or series of words that pop into my head and just won't leave. The process of taking photos itself is quite free flowing and I just go with what occurs to me when I'm on location. It is very meditative and I find that no matter what kind of day I've had I emerge from this process feeling calm and centered. Sometimes I am able to capture what I had in mind and sometimes I end up with something entirely different  but I'm always looking for the photo that has some kind of magic inside it, whether it is a specific quality of light, a slight movement or tweak of a posture that simply makes the photo stand out from the rest. It's something that can't be recreated twice. For me, photography is about the pursuit of capturing that magic."

To see more of Patty's work, visit her on Flickr.    
Praise for Blood Sisters of the Republic
“With a voice as uptown as it is down-home, Wendy Willis' splendid poems make one astonishing yet satisfying leap after another. Each line is chock-a-block with a jazzy, jostling sound all her own. This poet '...stands and keens / her tunneled silence, a burr in the mouth, smooth as oil...' The width and depth of her embrace is remarkable, her vision as fearless as her full-tilt music. '”
  — Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate and author of The Voluptuary


“Wendy Willis is a poet of serious heart, a fact of enormous importance to the political and personal terms of her first book. While her politics lie in a generosity of spirit, her affections border on the extravagant. There is something wonderfully wild at the center of her poems, a freedom earned by craft. Blood Sisters of the Republic is as much about its local life as it is about national conscience. Plentitude and complexity are the hallmarks of its voice. And love is its signature.”
  — Stanley Plumly, author of Old Heart


“'I was born under the sign of the pulp mill,' writes Wendy Willis at the opening of this startlingly acrobatic collection. In poems that sing of a lineage 'maimed by plainness,' her republic of bruised plums, sourdough starts, and black-capped chickadees is as ravaged as it is irresistible. It's a crowded, complicated, and often comical Republic. Her writing is like no one's I know. Her book is a homage to the exquisite madness of real life. ”
  — David Keplinger, author of The Prayers of Others


“'Here's a full-out 21st century poet  wrangler with history, domestic confidante, disrupter of narratives, down-home story teller, linguistic fire breather. Wendy Willis fills this striking book to bursting with the rich matter of home life and the world's grand, baffling sweep.”
  — Greg Glazner, author of Opening the World


“'What is this creature Wendy Willis calls Blood Sisters of the Republic? Let me offer a few excited observations: a compendium, an almanac, a miscellany. A genealogy both personal and broadly American. An investigation of loss. A lush, lyrical hymn to maddening and beloved communities that define us. Willis deftly inhabits a tremendous number of drives — the lyrically sensual, the intimately epistolary, the historiographic  — but most central to the spirit of this stunning first collection is the drive to pay unceasing attention to the ruined and tender world. Blood Sisters of the Republic explodes all well-behaved notions of what a collection of poetry might contain, insisting on a vaster and more civic notion of the art form.”
  — Lisa Purpura, author of King Baby, and the winner of the 2008 Beatrice Hawley Award


“If a homesteader deep in the land grew poems, they would inhabit this book. If the wrangling urge of a bean seed in dark earth to split and lunge up-stem and delve down-root at once, they would be these incantations Willis has offered home-grown, tart as a wild blackberry, nutritious as wheat. Her way with words is resident and feral in one go, inventing lyric chants that feel by turns old, festive, settled, searing—and original, from the origin point of the human. It’s as if a shaman disguised as the cathedral janitor told her to write without fear, tell her most secret and arresting stories, and she did.”
—Kim Stafford, author of 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do:How My Brother Disappeared

GENEOLOGY


Maimed by plainness, adorned 
only with adoration, she skittered—
avian and nervous—from a line 
of robin-breasted sisters, hovering 

between the old country and the frayed 
edge of memory. She inherited 
finely turned ankles, elaborate as spindles,
& a gift for coaxing yeast. Polishing 

the edges of promises with dishtowels,
she practiced passing nickels
as secrets. Desire—a smooth 
river rock—the rules were simple: 

no crows in the house, dilute whiskey
by half, clean fish downstream.
They gave her a rough-stitched apron,
her name hidden in the seam 

& a recipe for Christmas cake 
too rich for a woman to eat alone.  
She planned her wedding 
for Chestnut Days. Dancing, 

the balsamic moon. She wore 
a girdle sown with sweetgrass 
and nettle and made a vow,
jagged as a fishhook, yes.
Poem