Becoming Bone would not have happened without Annie Boutelle giving a 1995 gallery talk at the Smith College Museum of Art, on the topic of Childe Hassam’s painting White Island Light, Isles of Shoals, at Sundown. The talk led to a study of the relationship between Childe Hassam and Celia Thaxter, and then an academic paper, followed by a plan to write an impressionistic novel based on Thaxter’s life.
Research at various libraries followed, but when Annie sat down to write the novel, it refused to emerge. A poem in Thaxter’s voice appeared, and Annie was launched on the book-length project of Becoming Bone.
The cover image is of Thaxter’s shell necklace, made and worn by Thaxter, and now owned by Harvard University.
Like Becoming Bone, Nest of Thistles had its origin in a Smith College lecture, this time one that Annie Boutelle delivered in honor of Robert Burns manuscripts donated to the Mortimer Rare Book Room. Researching Burns’s life and poems reconnected Annie to her Scottish childhood (she lived there until she was 21), and plunged her into the Scots language of Lallans or Broad Scots.
Several different strands weave through Nest of Thistles: the largest strand is composed of poems on the topic of her childhood in Aberfeldy and Oban; other strands are translations from Rainer Maria Rilke, poems about poetry, or about individual poets. The Scottish landscape plays a dominant role, and several of the poems use Lallans words, e.g. “scunnert” and “stravaig” and “plowter.” The cover image, by Annie Raskin, is of the island of Kerrera as viewed from the house which Annie Boutelle’s mother owned in Oban.
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