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by Manning Goodwin

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Those who are lucky enough to repeatedly visit the same destination for their annual holiday will appreciate the way in which overlapping memories can enrich current recollections of a place. Hewitt Lake was one such holiday destination for me. My great grandfather, Dean Sage, bought it for $1000 in 1896 for the family, at a time when the sun shone over the mountains to sparkle the water, and no human structure shore-side distorted nature’s wild but ordered beauty. Large summer houses were soon built – the Lake became a community of eight houses, built for various members of the family. And during warm holidays I would visit my grandmother Elizabeth Sage there. I was intrigued with the ice house, the hammocks on the balustraded front porch overlooking the Lake, the numerous large bedrooms – to me grandiose – and the mysterious off-bounds kitchen with its staff. I used to fish in the Lake as a child for inedible fish, and wrap these up as birthday presents for my cousins. 

I visited Hewitt most summers during my first twenty years, and one last time in my fifties, for a gathering of thirty members of the family – where my offspring and their spouses joined me and my childhood memories for a family holiday.

On our visit at the age of eighty-six, transporting my bronchitis as usual, I set myself the task of writing one poem a day, to explore my memories, and the meaning of Nature, but with a focus on what it means for me to grow old, and on what change and growth I might observe in my maturity, my capacities, faculties and purpose. One can see a lifetime from birth to death, and note causalities, but after death this review will take place in reverse sequence – so you might say that I was preparing my consciousness for events to come. As the poems were jotted down, or at least the preliminary notes pertinent to the proposed title,  I began to feel that my project had developed into an autobiography in poems.


In August, 2014, we toured the coastal circuit around Iceland, staying in three little cabins with thermally heated hot tubs, and then in a Reykjavik hotel. It was a family holiday – I as Grandfather, my wife – my daughter, her husband and their daughter (my granddaughter). The landscape was stunning, the people seemed taciturn but helpful. Icelandic literature over the centuries revealed itself gradually as we visited writers’ homes and birthplaces. The rocks and the sea, the geological shaping of the sub- continent, the fantastic mineral collections, the painted houses, the glaciers, waterfalls and volcanoes, all spoke as created beauty. One volcano erupted while we were there – I hope not in protest at our presence – and though we did not venture to stand at the bottom of its slopes, we took off on the plane home, thankful that all aircraft were not yet again grounded.

Snorri Sturluson was a thirteenth century Icelandic historian and politician from wealthy and powerful Viking stock, ruthless and cunning as many of his rivals – but he was also a gifted and genius poet. He companioned a circle of learned scholars at Oddi, who had a library with many old texts and manuscripts, among them a now-lost ancient version of the Edda describing the Norse Gods. Snorri wrote The Prose Edda based on these and oral sources and included stories in poetic form telling of the Norse Gods and the Northern peoples.

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These poems honour my wife, Gertraud, whose constant companionship and care has been a balm to the second half of my life. She has been an inspiration to my spiritual quest, a colleague in the search for moral and human values, a model in her generosity and helpfulness to others, a sculptress by profession as well as an artist in all facets of life.

Her artistic capacity has been a help in editing and improving my poems. Aside from writing her books, she occasionally writes a poem herself, allowing her feelings to blossom into a burst of poetic expression. And sometimes we write a poem together, either by taking turns in adding a line one after another, or by sparking each other to a collection of thoughts and feelings which we then assemble into a poem. Or we compile a list of words reflecting impressions we’ve had and then use these as seedbed to sprout poetic lines which we then graft into a poem.

Gertraud uses words to articulate meaning and express feelings, but her journey is one inexplicably at variance with mine – it comes through intuition, warmth, insight, sense of form, and searching for essence – and it arises out of her artistic sensitivity. I hope the reader will find the characteristics of her virtues and values manifested in the poems.

Gertraud, or Gigi as I in endearing mood will embrace her, has always created in shaded black-and-white drawing, as well as explored various media in form and depiction. The examples of her work used as illustrations in this book, are what I call her ancillary works. They show Gertraud at play or in exploratory mood, but on respite from the serious themes of her main artistic work in sculpture.

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This booklet is dedicated to the formative forces with which we all work on earth, whether that be in the shaping of sculptures, fostering family relationships, or leading a creative life. It is something of a mystery as to whether a capacity to form our lives or outer materials is a gift with which we are born or a skill for which we can discipline and perfect ourselves by practice. If we are born with this capacity to form, do we bring it with us into incarnation, or do we inherit it from our family as a gift?
My full name, Philip Manning Goodwin, owes the “Philip” as a bow to my architect great uncle, Philip Lippincott Goodwin, architect of NYC’s Modern Museum of Art. And the “Manning” is a family name, which was also given as a middle name to both my paternal and maternal grandmothers,  My father, Henry Sage Goodwin, was also an architect, and then a painter for forty years in his retirement.
My grandfather, Herbert King Stockton, was a maritime lawyer, and with his wife Miriam Stockton was formative in the creation of the American Laboratory Theatre in New York City into the 1930’s. 
My own background developed with thanks to the family and perhaps was in part brought with me – from where? – and was fostered culturally and intellectually at Yale University, professionally at University of Virginia Law School. In 1960. I worked as a government lawyer for three years in Washington, D.C. in the Senate and the State Department. 
I have always written poetry and this is my second volume of poetry. My brother, Rufus Stockton Goodwin, wrote and published a number of books, including those of poetry, but with him no longer on earth, I venture more into the sunlight of poetry. 

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