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Night Journey

poems by Richard Widerkehr

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In Night Journey, poet Richard Widerkehr invites the reader to take a journey with him through darkness while examining suffering and pain, but these poems “bring us to a place where news of war or disaster is tempered by the vitality and beauty of the natural world.” (Barbara Bloom)

POETRY / General

ISBN: 978-1-956056-38-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2022937348

Released May 17, 2022 | Copyright 2022

96 pages

Author Biography

Richard Widerkehr’s work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Rattle, Writer’s Almanac, and others. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University, won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan, first prize for short story at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, three Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest awards, and three awards for poems published in The Bridge. He has poems in Take A Stand: Art Against Hate (Raven Chronicles Press), which won the 2021 Washington State Book Award for poetry. His other books and chapbooks include At The Grace Cafe (Main Street Rag Publishing), In The Presence Of Absence (MoonPath Press), Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press), The Way Home (Plain View Press), and a novel, Sedimental Journey (Tarragon Books). He has taught writing in the Upward Bound Program at Western Washington University and has worked as a case manager for the mentally ill. He reads poems for Shark Reef Review.


“Why question what light we’re given? In this collection of clear-eyed, delicate poems, Richard Widerkehr invites the reader to travel with him on a Night Journey, through darkness spattered with unlikely sunlight and stars. Familial and generational suffering are examined, mourned, and accepted, creating a landscape where the sun comes out and the hidden lakes lie scraped of all their pain. The poet’s love for his neurodivergent sister, who sleeps with the moon in her cardboard box, permeates this work. She is a leaf, sunlit, the quick air that plays over fire, surviving. Widerkehr reminds us that in Hebrew, holy means separate, bowing to his sister’s path. When the sun is torn out of its socket, and it will be, the poet warns, pain is assuaged by contemplation and acceptance. The world is still here, and the poems provide as evidence the diminutive life of bumblebees, a fledgling bird, foxglove, and peonies. A bee, with gold on its thighs outshines sorrow. In the face of loss, these gorgeous, meditative poems weave scraps of sunlight to stitch the torn world together.”
Jenifer Lawrence, author of A Hundred Steps From Shore (Blue Begonia Press) and Grayling (Perugia Press)

“These poems do not shy away from a world in which ‘Beauty takes a beating in the streets,’ but they also bring us to a place where news of war or disaster is tempered by the vitality and beauty of the natural world. The poet grapples with the mental illness of his sister, giving her a voice and allowing readers an empathic glimpse into her reality. His longing to make contact with her is powerfully expressed: ‘Someday I’ll . . . walk through/ her stampeding clouds, her avalanche of sighs.’ In this clear-eyed “Night Journey,” the darkness is acknowledged, but there is a pervasive sense of hope: ‘All the doors are open,’ the poet tells us, ‘no endings/I know.’” 
Barbara Bloom, author of On the Water Meridian and Pulling Down the Heaven

“This stunning new collection of poems by Richard Widerkehr is rich in craft, imagery, memory, and identity. Night Journey takes us on a journey of our own, where our humanness intersects with the voices of his sister Chloe: ‘where hidden lakes lie scraped of all their pain.’ We feel the potency of language, the search for meaning when the night cannot forget. It is sometimes through the unspoken that Widerkehr’s brilliance breaks through, nothing to say to the dark, except why question this light we’re given,’ and his keen perceptions shed light: ‘and the sea being a sea says nothing.’ When he lands a poem on the line ‘Lately, I can’t pray,’ we become aware that each poem Widerkehr carefully crafts is prayer: an observation, a memory, a plea to himself, to us all, to forgive but not forget. In this collection, Widerkehr alludes to poetry being the lifesaver. Thank goodness when this pen's running out,’ he finds a way to borrow one—we are better for reading Widerkehr’s words, admiring his craft, and feeling his poetic wisdom seep through every page.
Jay Nahani Braunstein, chair of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

“Though themes of despair, death; ‘a hanging garden near the sun,’ and violence; ‘black rain, chimneys, Auschwitz,’ are threaded through Richard Widerkehr’s new book, Night Journey, his images are beautifully bound in the natural world. ‘Pale stars that woke soldiers at dawn in another country’ appear near his home as he hears news of distant war. His quiet, unpretentious poems show the many voices of mental illness, likening them to the presence of angels and the sea, and you can’t argue with the sea, inspiring acceptance of human differences. Chloe, ‘who no longer sleeps with the moon in her box, reassures I’m not sick. Please don’t worry . . . we’re all blessed.’”
Linda Conroy, author of Ordinary Signs

“In Richard Widerkehr's collection of elegies, ‘Her Story of Fire,’ the poems are carved, concise, contemporary, and incantatory. I was very moved, as I believe all readers must be.” -
Erin Belieu, author of Black Box and Infanta

Articles and Reviews


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