You Haven't Asked About My Wedding or What I Wore

Poems of Courtship on the American Frontier

Jana Harris

Jana Harris

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

160 pages | 28 halftones | 6 x 9
Paper $17.95 ISBN: 9781602232358 Published October 2014
“Nowhere / on these parchment leaves do I find / myself, my likeness, my name, / not a whisper—Cynthia—not one / breath of me.”

For thirty years poet Jana Harris researched the diaries and letters of North American pioneer women. While the names and experiences of the authors varied, Harris found one story often connected them: their most powerful memories were of courtships and weddings. They dreamed of having a fine wedding while they spent their lives hauling water, scrubbing floors, and hoping for admirers. Many married men they hardly knew.

Based on primary research of nineteenth-century frontier women, Harris uses her compelling poetry to resurrect a forgotten history. She captures the hope, anxiety, anger, and despair of these women through a variety of characters and poetic strategies, while archival photographs give faces to the names and details to the settings. Harris’s meticulous research and stirring words give these pioneer women a renewed voice that proves the timelessness of the hopes and fears of love and marriage.
Ann McCutchan, author of River Music: An Atchafalaya Story and Circular Breathing: Meditations from a Musical Life
“In this compelling collection, Jana Harris, poet and longtime researcher of the pioneer era, imagines and animates the voices of 19th-century women as they adapt to the frontiers of marriage and the American West. While Harris’s vivid language and imagery offer more than enough pleasures to delight and sustain the reader, it is her remarkably intuitive grasp of individual lives (inner and outer) that makes this book an exceptional, complex realization of time, place and experience. It might be said Harris has written a novel in poems—a novel one can’t put down.”
Janet Sternburg, author of Phantom Limb; White Matter: A Memoir of Family and Medicine; The Writer on Her Work
“Harris is the bard of pioneer women’s voices in the Northwest and now . . . it is clear that she is speaking for a vast American experience in the nineteenth century, one that resonates to this very day. . . . ‘Who can account,’ she writes in her rendering of the voice of Lucy Stevens from Oregon, 1875, ‘for what catches in memory’s cogs?’ It is the American experience that has caught in Harris’ cogs and here she gives it back to us in all its glory.”
Suzanne Lebsock, author of A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial
“In poems at once accessible and deep, Jana Harris brings to vibrant life the women who pioneered the Pacific Northwest. While they faced an array of common struggles, in Harris’s wise telling they emerge nonetheless as unforgettable individuals."
Valerie Miner, author of Traveling with Spirits
You Haven’t Asked About My Wedding or What I Wore is both a wrenching history lesson and a lyrical celebration of courage."
Louise Bernikow, author of Among Women and Dreaming in Libro: How a Good Dog Tamed a Bad Woman
"A marvel of storytelling and a totally unique way of breathing life into stuffy archives, making women’s lives hum, with its acute sense of place and language. It’s a thrilling, daring work.”
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