Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Generations of Poetic Heritage: “Influence” by Anna Riehl, my grandmother


Last year on April 1st, I gave a talk for the Poet Laureate of Lake County Reading. Sandra Wade became Poet Laureate of the county with Fran Ransley and me as finalists. We read in Lakeport, Northern California, at the Lake County Arts Council on Main Street.

The entire text of my reading is available at this link, with the poems from three generations of my poetic "Heritage."

I never knew Grandma Anna Riehl, my father’s mother. But she did influence me strongly. She served in the Korean mission field and died in a harsh traffic accident while my father was but a boy. I did know her book, "On the Heights", published a century ago. Her title, On the Heights, refers to our place, Evergreen Heights, of course, and also, equally clear to anyone who knew her—on the heights of God. One of the poems from this book is printed on a little broadside. When you run your hand over the paper, feel the indentation of the lead type—not laser—and be transported to another time. Here’s the poem:

INFLUENCE
by Anna Riehl

You dropped a flower on my path one day,
Not knowing; but I saw it lying there,
Perceived a perfume, delicate and rare,
And caught it up from off the dusty way.

You dropped a word into my life one day,
A gentle word, and though you never knew,
It rooted in my heart, and there it grew,
A silent influence, a constant stay.

And still, above the tumult and the strife,
I seem to hear your sweet voice speaking yet,
In accents that I never can forget,
Giving the motive for a better life.

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