Features poems by Civil War poet Laura Redden Searing.
Laura Redden Searing (1839-1923) defied critics of the time by establishing herself as a successful poet, a poet who was deaf. She began writing verse at the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1858, and, under the pseudonym Howard Glyndon, soon found herself catapulted into national prominence by her patriotic Civil War poems. Abraham Lincoln himself bought her books, the most critically acclaimed being Idylls of Battle and Poems of the Rebellion, published in 1864. Her poem “Belle Missouri” became the song of the Missouri Volunteers, and she was sent by the St. Louis Republican newspaper to Washington as a war correspondent.
Despite her success, detractors decried her poetry simply because she was deaf, asking how she could know anything of rhyme, rhythm, or musical composition. She quieted them with the simple elegance of her words and the sophistication of her allegorical themes. Readers can enjoy her work again in this volume, which features more than 70 of her finest poems. They also will learn her feelings about the constraints imposed on 19th-century women in her epic narrative of misunderstanding and lost love “Sweet Bells Jangled:”
Out of sight of the heated land
Over the breezy sea;
Into the reach of the solemn mist
Quietly drifted we.
Her restoration will be an event welcomed by poetry aficionados everywhere.
Judy Yaeger Jones is an independent scholar and educational consultant in multicultural, disability, and women’s history in St. Paul, MN.
Jane E. Vallier is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of English at Iowa State University.