“Dreaming of France” — Kerry Tepperman Campbell

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

In the summer of 2015, I organized a course for the CSU summer arts program that took place in Monterey Bay, California. Although the administrative duties of making that course happen, both in preparation and on site, proved to be extraordinarily exhausting, I am proud to look back on how fortunate I was to be able to call upon the talents of so many master poets: Marilyn Nelson, Douglas Kearney, Ellen Bass, Cecilia Woloch, and Juan Felipe Herrera. Yes, indeed, fortuity was on my side for once, for Juan had agreed to participate in this program several months before it was announced that he was the nation’s new poet laureate.

Among the very fine student-writers who showed up, one in particular shared portions of a work-in-progress that had considerable promise, and I am very happy to see that it has finally been published. Kreey Tepperman Campbell’s Dreaming of France is one of the hundred best books to be published in 2018. Whether it will get the recognition it deserves is unusually difficult to predict, for it will depend on how critics and reviewers are able to solve the problem of how to describe the book. Cecilia Woloch mentions this challenge in her blurb on the back cover:

“This is a book that’s impossible to categorize — it it poetry, prose, a novel? — and also one of the most beautiful books, deeply pleasurable things I’ve ever read.”

If one were to recommend Dreaming of France to a friend, and classify it as prose poetry, that reader would probably expect a volume that has a single narrator. Dreaming of France, however, presents us with a series of individual women, each of whom has a particular yearning for an encounter with a fulfilling radiance. There are over five dozen, distinctly titled sections or passages in Dreaming of France, and each one palpitates with with the solemn joy of expectation and renewal. Campbell’s debut publication, which was the winner of the 2017 Blue Light Book Prize, is a succinct masterpiece.

Kerry Tepperman Campbell will be reading from this book at Beyond Barqoue on the coming Saturday night, April 21, at 8 p.m. She should be reading from a stage at the L.A. Times Book Fair, which also takes that place that day. It is still the case that much of the most intriguing writing on the West Coast makes its Southern California debut at Beyond Baroque. I hope to see you there.

Dreaming of France
1st World Library
P.O. Box 2211
Fairfield, IA 52556

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