“Return of the Blue Nun” in Pushcart Prize XLV: 2021

October 16, 2020

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“Return of the Blue Nun” was unpublished when I found it in Madeline’s archive, and first appeared in Where the Horse Takes Wing: The Uncollected Poems of Madeline DeFrees (Two Sylvias Press, 2019).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.

Typescript of “Return of the Blue Nun,” with handwritten edits
Madeline DeFrees Papers, UMass Amherst Libraries