Reader Views is talking today with Janet Grace Riehl, author of the deeply personal, yet universally poignant book of poetry, “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary.” Janet is interviewed by Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor of Reader Views.
Juanita: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today Janet. Please tell us how this unique book of poetry unfolded onto paper.
Janet Grace RiehlJanet: My sister Julia died in a car accident in August 2004. My 56th birthday gift in December 2004 was the spiritual guidance to write what became Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary. I felt a spiritual leading to begin writing poetry when I went on a small retreat at the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate in Southwestern Illinois. I received this message: “Cleaning. During this quiet time.” The whole world seemed charged with meaning. I resolved to tease out that meaning through writing these poems.
Once I started writing, the work just flowed. The actual writing of the body of work after its inception in late December took nine months. Through spiritual guidance—common sense really—I was shown not only how to begin but also how to protect the work while writing. I wrote with the door closed, so to speak, without much commentary or critiquing from others. I simply wrote from my heart.
I carved out my time in the morning. This was private time of solitude when I felt most open. I believe that creative products come through us more than from us. We have to find a place, time, and way of listening.
I’d thought that my friend and book-coach help me shape the book once I wrote the poems. But, he told me that was the next stage of my creative work and I’d intuitively know how to do it. I’d never worked beyond the individual written piece before, but he was right. I did know how to do it.
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Senseless Tragedy Leads Deep into the Spirit of Family
A deeply personal, frank portrait of one family not only coming to terms with its grief, but also celebrating its past and difficult present. This collection of poems strike poignant and universal chords offering a vision of life filled with little treasures that carry us back to what is truly important in our lives
Lake County, CA (PRWEB) May 24, 2006 -- On August 16, 2004, Julia Ann Thompson, 61, was killed in a car wreck. Julia's work as a world-class physicist coupled with her far-reaching social efforts for equality and justice made a profound difference in the world. Julia's husband, Dave Kraus, and mother, Ruth Thompson, were also severely injured in the accident, yet through months of skill, care, and willpower, recovered from their injuries. This tragic and unexpected accident shook the Riehl’s family at its foundation.
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Poet Keeps Kin in Her “Sightlines”
Reading Set for Saturday in Alton
By Jill Moon (jill_moon AT thetelegraph dot com)
April 14, 2006
(Photo by Jim Bowling. Caption: Poet Janet Riehl, center, is doing a poetry reading on the topics of family relations and grieving at the Second Reading book store Saturday. Three are several authors in Riehl’s family. Pictured, from left, are Riehl’s niece Diane Thompson and her two children Amelia McCarthy 9, and Margaret McCarthy, 6, and Riehl’s father, Erwin Thompson. All are holding published books written by family members. Note: In this family portrait we are sitting on the couch in the living room underneath the photos of Carl Roesch—my great-great-grandfather, Mathilda Roesch Riehl (his daughter)—my great-grandmother, and the Riehl home in Colmar, France.)
GODFREY—Generations ago, a patriarch planted a seed on the bluffs above the Great River Road that germinated around the world before psychically taking root there. Native daughter, Janet Grace Riehl, pays tribute to heritage and home, reading from her debut collection of poems, Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Second Reading Bookshop, 16 E. Broadway, Alton.
Riehl’s literary life began here with her great grandfather, E. A. Riehl, who built the Riehl ancestral home in 1863, at the top of Thompson Lane off Stanka Lane. Riehl’s parents, Erwin and Ruth Thompson, still live on the property where she roamed the 100 acres deemed Evergreen Heights. “The biggest influence on me as a writer was my father,” Riehl said. “He is the greatest example of a working writer who showed me that writing was as necessary and natural as breathing, eating and sleeping.”
Riehl’s newly-released collection features 90 poems divided into five section dedicated to her sister, father, mother, the ancestral home and her own lakeside home in Northern California. Riehl wrote Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary after the death of her sister, Julia Thompson, caused by a car accident August 16, 2004. Her poems examine issues of caretaking, aging, death and bereavement from an accessible humanistic perspective.
Riehl’s previous works of short stories, personal essays, poems and artwork have been published in national literary magazines including the Harvard Review and a recent anthology Stories to Live By: Wisdom to Make the Most of Every Day.
Riehl graduated from Alton High School in 1967. She received a master’s in English from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and co-edited its poetry magazine, Sou’Wester. She lived and worked five years in Africa—Botswana and Ghana—volunteering first for Peace Corps and later for British World Friends (Quakers).
Riehl supported herself for decades teaching and writing fro business and education. The Kellogg Foundation sponsored Riehl as a Fellow in International Development focusing on Latin American culture. She now lives in a rural area in Lake County in Northern California, where she operates Rocking Triangle Studio and sits on the board of EcoArts. This spring she was named as a finalist for the poet laureate of Lake County.