Many thanks to Bill Henderson and the Pushcart Prize editors for selecting “Return of the Blue Nun,” to appear in Pushcart Prize XLV: Best of the Small Presses 2021.
Since 1976, the Pushcart Press has published an annual collection of the best poems, essays, and short stories, submitted by editors of little magazines and small book presses.
“Return of the Blue Nun” was unpublished when I found it in Madeline’s archive, and first appeared in Where the Horse Takes Wing: The Uncollected Poems of Madeline DeFrees (Two Sylvias Press, 2019). It’s one of three “Blue Nun” poems she wrote over her lifetime, taking the fictional Blue Nun of Blue Nun wine as an alter ego who represented both her independence from and enduring connection to her identity as a vowed religious.
After arriving at the University of Montana in 1967, Madeline had to learn to navigate civilian life, including frequent faculty cocktail parties. Understandably nervous, she confessed to the English Department Chair, Warren Carrier, that she had little experience with alcohol. He brought her a bottle of Blue Nun, a semi-sweet German wine (liebsfraumilch), that was known to be easy to drink. Madeline liked the wine, and she appreciated both the joke and his kindness. She always maintained a fondness for Blue Nun, and hung several Blue Nun bar mirrors in her home. She and Carrier remained friends, and kept up a correspondence that spanned at least 30 years.
Thanks also to Bill Henderson and the Pushcart Prize editors. Since 1976, the Pushcart Press has published an annual collection of the best poems, essays, and short stories, submitted by editors of little magazines and small book presses. “Return of the Blue Nun” will be published in Pushcart Prize XLV: Best of the Small Presses.
Madeline DeFrees is featured in the article, “The Nuns Who Wrote Poems,” by Nick Ripatrazone, in the May 25, 2020 issue of America, The Jesuit Review.
In the mid-20th century, several nuns…were writing ambitious poems and publishing them in renowned magazines and newspapers. Their writing garnered awards and accolades. These women were not the first literary nuns–Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, O.S.H., a 17th-century Mexican nun, is famous for her iconic verses–but something of a minor literary renaissance happened in mid-century America and abroad. Although literary nuns tend to be overshadowed by poetic priests like Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., and Robert Southwell, S.J., these women deserve attention.
The Seattle Review of Books featured Blue Dusk in their Lunch Date column March 7, 2016. Paul Constant wrote, “She’s thoughtful and earnest and intelligent and a little bit prickly, just like the best of our poets.” Read the entire review here.
Join us in celebrating Madeline DeFrees’ life and work Saturday, January 9, 2016, 2 pm, at Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122.
Rick Simonson, Chris Howell, Susan Rich, Elizabeth Austen, Candace Black, Elizabeth Weber, Gary Thompson, Jennifer Maier and others will be there to share memories of Madeline and their favorite poems.