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Death and Empathy: My Sister Web by Joan M. Howard
Teacher and poet Joan M. Howard began keeping a diary of poems in 1995, when her beloved sister, Susan McAllister Swap, passed away. The poems were focused not only on her grief but also on the incredible gift of life itself, as well as the beauty of the lives of both her sister and Howard's husband, Jack.
Howard uses formal and free verse poetry to create a tribute to the holy gift of existence, which shows itself in many wonderful forms: through nature, animals, travel, and love. Her themes are universal and capture the humility, strength, courage, and resilience that live inside all of us-and all of which were essential parts of both her sister's and husband's lives. Their genuine love of life and their ability to empathize were what Howard most admired about them, and they serve as the lifeline through all her poetry.
This book is a diary of poems written sequentially from 1995 to 1997. Its deepest purpose is a celebration of their characters: their love of nature and life witnessed in their humility, strength, resilience and courage in the face of great suffering. Through their daily lives they achieved what is present daily—the miracle of the every day, the possibility of reaching and exemplifying ever-present grace.
Joan M. Howard earned her B.A. from Indiana University and her M.A. from the University of Oregon. She has had a long career of teaching students in Illinois and Georgia. Her poetry has been published in the Aurorean, Lucid Rhythms, The Road Not Taken:The Journal of Formal Poetry, The Wayfarer, POEM, Victorian Violet, The Lyric, The Deronda Review, The Reach of Song 2012 (Georgia Poetry Society), Vox Poetica, and other literary journals. She lives in Athens and Hiawassee, Georgia, enjoys birding, and kayaking on beautiful Lake Chatuge in northern Georgia.