GENEVA — Writer and Geneva native Susan Brind Morrow has lived in places as disparate as Egypt, New York and now the Hudson Valley, but it may be her hometown of Geneva that sets her apart. has the most marked.

Growing up in the natural wonderland of the Finger Lakes and being nurtured by language lovers like her mother and other mentors, fertilized the writing spirit of Brind Morrow, who learned earlier this year that she was one of 16 recipients of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award.

In its ceremony booklet, the Academy described Brind Morrow as someone who:

“… defies categorization. She is a classical translator of Egyptian hieroglyphs and a naturalist. His poetry has the inclusiveness of prose, his prose the precision of poetry. She writes with exceptional beauty about the Finger Lakes region of New York. It also brings us back to the Pyramid Texts and the origins of poetry. This strange constellation is illuminated by its radiance. She has a deeply personal relationship with both the natural world and the most ancient texts. Everything she writes has the magical quality of early songs and spells.

In a recent telephone interview from her Hudson Valley home, Brind Morrow, a 1974 Geneva high school graduate, said she was quite surprised by the honor and the $10,000 prize that came with it. , given that she writes one book per decade (see sidebar).

“It was really out of the blue. I had no idea,” she said.

This is not the first time that the literary world has noticed this.

In 1998, her book “The Names of Things” was a finalist for the PEN Award for Memoir, and she was a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as an author of the Sowell Collection.

However, since the American Academy of Arts and Letters award did not follow recent publication, that made it much more meaningful, said Brind Morrow, who feels he recognizes the longevity of his work. For her, that’s the marvelous thing about literature.

“You can communicate with people long after you’re dead with writing – and certainly with people you’ll never know.”

Brind Morrow’s hometown clearly fostered that deep connection to the natural world that informs her writing. She often comes back; his father, David (a retired judge), lives in Ferris Hills in Canandaigua, while his brother, Charlie, is renovating a property on Seneca Lake and is in the process of moving here. She sees a renaissance happening in Geneva, with people she knows coming back and wanting to be part of this community.

“It’s a unique place that has its own quality,” Brind Morrow said.

It is also a place that she had the advantage of exploring without incident in her youth. On her website, she writes:

“Like a lot of people of my generation, I imagine, looking back, I’m very glad I was alive when I was, when there were no cell phones and you could go n’ anywhere and nobody knew you, and those who did didn’t. I don’t know where you were. I spent a lot of time in Egypt, a spectacular environment that is not without remember the Finger Lakes where I come from, an environment dominated by water.

A first introduction to the world of poetry

Brind Morrow credits her late mother, Shirley, for instilling a love of poetry in her early on and her mother’s aunt for demonstrating a poet’s life and connection to nature. Again, from his website:

“(My mother’s) aunt was a Canadian poet who lived very simply in a wilderness retreat called Abbey Dawn with her husband, a Canadian RAF gunner who was shot down over Germany in World War I. world, and after a long period in a German POW camp, just wanted the life of a lumberjack in the Great Lakes. So for us, from the beginning, poetry was related to nature, and also to a kind of feeling religious — a traditional perspective I think, and very American. It was about looking at things up close, translating the visual world. There was a realization, probably coming from World War I, that everything is falling apart , but poetry endures. Later, when I looked at other languages, I was very aware that the words had a tactile quality, a closeness to the physical thing.

Brind Morrow fondly remembers a cast of Geneva women who played central roles in her upbringing, including Mary Luckern, Mrs Mackey (who taught youngsters in a one-room school) and Jean Nicholson, who taught Spanish to Brind Morrow on her farm, walking around and showing animals and plants in their Spanish names.

“I think it had a huge impact on me,” she said.

After high school, Brind Morrow attended Barnard College in New York, studying classics there and as a graduate student at Columbia. She also studied Arabic and hieroglyphic texts for six years as an Egyptology student.

In a letter to her father that she shared, Brind Morrow writes of her global adventures in her youth with a mixture of disbelief and gratitude.

“I lived in the Libyan desert in a tent, and in the eastern desert with the Beja in the Red Sea hills. I was in Khartoum when the government fell in 1989, and in Russia when the government fell in 1991, climbing the Altai Mountains with the Kazakh nomads and crossing the border into China to join the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. I drove through Yemen from Sanaa to Aden alone when North and South united in 1990. I rode to the source of the Nile by cattle boat in 1983 with the tribal people of South Sudan, traveling for weeks through the great swamp.

“I was in Uganda when the government fell in the early 1980s, driving with the headlights off at night so as not to be seen by the traveling militias, staying with the cattle herders and hiding in the hulls of buildings. I crossed Lake Victoria by boat and climbed Mount Kenya and Kilamanjaro, alone, living outside, sleeping on the ground in my early twenties. I traveled by ship across the South Pacific with Lance and flew in a small plane to the highlands of New Guinea in 1993. I often used to stay at the monastery on Mount Sinai and walk all over the mountain in the dark – Charlie once said I like old things, and it’s true. I lived on an old barge on the Nile; I have been to the monasteries of the Himalayas in India, and to the beautiful cities and ancient monuments of the world – to Delhi and Bodhgaya and Agra and the Taj Mahal, and Jerusalem, Istanbul, Cairo and Venice – where I have spent a lot of time When I was young.

His life today is much more settled.

For nearly 30 years, Brind Morrow and her essayist husband, Lance Morrow (longtime writer for Time magazine), have taken up residence on an 1,800-acre sheltered farm in the town of Chatham, Columbia County. His writing routine consists of getting up at 4 a.m. and spending a full day at noon. She writes by hand on legal pads, transcribing her words later on the computer. She and her husband take long lunches to each share what they are working on. He, as a journalist familiar with the pressure of deadlines, “…set an excellent example of discipline,” she said. {/div}

“I’ve always loved the early morning, but you have that pristine clarity of mind (so),” Brind Morrow said. “As the day progresses, there are all these concerns to deal with.”

New books on the horizon

All this work will soon give rise to two new publications.

Texas Tech University Press will publish a 64-page book of poetry and artwork by Brind Morrow titled “Water.” She calls it “an American Zen album like the China and Japan albums with nature pictures and poems next to them.” It is a compilation of poems written at different times and in different places, with water as a unifying theme.

She recalled how, on her first visit to the Finger Lakes in 1981 after being in the Sahara Desert, she was amazed when she saw the Finger Lakes with different eyes and “couldn’t believe how lakes were incredibly deep blue”. And protecting this water, which she calls “a priceless commodity”, helped her write the article “The Finger Lakes Are Being Poisoned” which appeared in The nation last December (and which was reissued in the Finger Lakes Weather January 22, 2022).

Brind Morrow is also working to complete a collection of essays on darkness to submit later this year to her publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux. Its working title is “Into the Dark”, and it explores different approaches to darkness and death and how different religious traditions deal with these subjects.

While sharing memories of the people and ethos of where she grew up, Brind Morrow also reminisced about a recent visit to a newly opened cafe in Naples where she stopped on her way home. When she entered the Old School Café, she said she was immediately struck by how it “had this unusual Finger Lakes quality”.

For Brind Morrow, the Finger Lakes may be on the east coast, but the region is very different from the east coast in its ambiance and plethora of natural resources. It could set her back for good one day, she said.

“It’s not an ordinary place but an extraordinary place,” Brind Morrow said. “Now is the time for people to think about it and protect it.”