What Is in the Blood – Ellen Stone

What Is in the Blood – Ellen Stone

Poetry. Paper, Perfect Bound. 72 pages
2020, ISBN: 978-1-936419-95-1 $17.95 + S&H

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What Is in the Blood is a poetry memoir about growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1960s and ‘70s with a bipolar mother. The book describes a girl’s early childhood and adolescence from having a vibrant mother – to living with a ghost mother. What Is in the Blood is about being female in America, the expectations of caregiving, and the toll gender takes on women. The book touches on a daughter’s sexual beginnings, as well as sexual assault and its lingering cost. What Is in the Blood makes clear the journey and impact of caring for a mentally ill parent while becoming a woman and mother. The gardens, fields, rivers and mountains of the author’s childhood provide both context and purpose to the family’s struggle. What Is in the Blood is finally a book about how the natural world holds and cares for those who rely on it for solace.

Praise for Ellen Stone’s work:
With a mother’s hospitalizations and diagnosis and a father immersed in maintaining the family homestead, how is a girl to find her place in the world? One answer may lie in her grounding in that world, the world of farmland and family, the mother’s up and down energy, playing baseball, kneading dough, stirring tomato sauces, until Stone, as one of the eldest daughters, must take charge of the “ghost” mother’s kitchen. Or in the sustenance that comes from the natural world—the venison, elderberries and rhubarb, even the grasses and trees—with which Ellen Stone’s poems are lushly involved. Another is surely the clear-eyed acceptance with which the poems face the difficult hand the poet was dealt. The poems in What Is in the Blood do not complain. They journey, investigate, accumulate clues, become in and of themselves “some kind of signal… “a trail I can follow” – Terry Blackhawk, One Less River

Ellen Stone transfigures pain and trauma into poems of startling loveliness and immediacy. What she calls “the true secret of switchgrass” is her secret, too: “It has already lived a thousand lives, yet / it rustles, hums, ripples…”
Eric McHenry, Odd Evening

Stone is a master of detail and tight wording, and her themes of home, family, nature, and illness resonate in these selections. Both emotionally and linguistically, they’re a treat to read even in the midst of their often-darker themes.” – Chila Woychik, Essayist & Editor

What Is in the Blood reviewed at the Ann Arbor Observer

What Is in the Blood reviewed by Mom Egg Review

In her new poetry collection, What Is in the Blood, the musicality of her lines evokes the strong emotional tether that keeps the speaker rooted in her childhood, even as she speaks to us as her adult self.

“Elderberries” from What Is in the Blood featured at University of Michigan Prechter Bipolar Foundation

Ellen Stone interviewed at Sapling

Ellen Stone reads “Hand Me Down” from What Is in the Blood (The poem first appeared in Moon City Press 2019)

Ellen Stone reads from “What Is in the Blood” for the Bad Mouth Poetry Series

Ellen Stone interviewed on Travers Area Community Media: Ideas Live series (video)

Driving to Galesburg

Mother says okay, okay
all across the prairie
steadying herself
her brain wrapping
around white barns, silos,
distance like black locust
fence posts or this barbed
wire gathering in the sheep.

These barns look new
she says, and I say, no.
No, they have always
been here – thinking
of her disappearing
over years, slipping
by. These numbered
markers tracking us.

It’s so large, she gasps.
Of the sea of corn.
Of the sky’s tumult.
Of the grassy, plumey
world, waving & wind
whipped, a wild mare –
frayed mane, tail glowing
behind her like a flag,
or some kind of signal.

About Ellen Stone
Ellen Stone was raised in the Appalachian mountains above the north branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. She taught public school in Kansas and Michigan for over thirty years. Ellen advises a poetry club at Community High School, and co-hosts a monthly poetry series in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems have appeared in Mantis, The Museum of Americana, Passages North, The Citron Review and The Rupture among other places. Ellen is the author of The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013). Her poems have been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net. Contact Ellen at www.ellenstone.org