The Sunday Poem: Harvena Richter (In Memorium)... Myths

We received word that Albuquerque writer and poet Harvena Richter passed away this last week.  She was 94.  Ms. Richter was featured in The Sunday Poem series on the DCF in March of 2010.  Her poems showed a beautiful precision and thoughtfulness. Besides writing poetry, Harvena collected and published the notebooks of her father, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Conrad Richter.


She was also known as an adventurer.  In 1956 she rode her Vespa motorscooter from Genoa, Italy to Tehran, Iran (Persia).  This trip is chronicled in a fictionalized work, Passage to Tehran.


The Richter family first moved to Albuquerque in 1928, looking for a cure for the tuberculosis which afflicted Harvena's mother.  Her father was extremely busy trying to earn a living writing and selling his short stories...and it only got harder with the onset of the Great Depression.  The times are documented in the very readable and fascinating Richter biography Conrad Richter: A Writer's Life, written by David R. Johnson.


The following poem is the final poem in her book The Innocent Island, published in 1999.  The title is a reference to her childhood and the Pennsylvania farm where the Richters lived before coming to Albuquerque.  She lived in her north valley adobe home from 1972 until just last month.





Long after I had left the farm

I met the myth of the Divine Child,

a being solitary, beloved of gods,

ignored by mortals.

A thin string

vibrated in me.

Always I had waited

to be rescued

like that numinous child--

orphaned by my mother's illness,

stranded by

my father's being about his business,

cut off from other chldren

who mouthed another tongue.

The difference started young,

when I had scarlet fever

and a brown-cowled doctor,

like a medieval monk,

bent over me in my crib.


The divine attends each child,

the god departing

sometime around puberty,

sensing he isn't needed,

waiting for a reunion later--

a light posted

around a final corner.

All myths are lights

that reach into dark corners of our selves.

All space

is marked out here and there with beacons.



--Harvena Richter




Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 459

Comment by Dee Cohen on July 10, 2011 at 10:51am
How lucky we were to have had this amazing woman and talented poet in our world. I have shared other poems of hers at readings (thanks to your introduction on past Sunday poems) and I remain bowled over by the great weight that her simple words carry. This one is near perfect in its presentation. And doubly effective for its message of comfort and reunion. I hope she found her light around that final corner. She has certainly shone a light on her readers. Dee
Comment by Margaret Randall on July 10, 2011 at 4:09pm
A sad loss. But a long time voice among us. And the voice will live on. So good that you told us this news, Jon, and honor Harvena with this posting.
Comment by Rich Boucher on July 11, 2011 at 12:21pm

Wow. I did not know her, but I now have a vague glimmer of what we've lost. Thank you, Jon, for this.




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