I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman

Jude Nutter

Winner of the 2010 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry

Winner, Gold Award, 2009 Book of the Year Award in Poetry, ForeWord Magazine

In “Return of the Heroes,” Walt Whitman refers to the casualties of the American Civil War: “the dead to me mar not. . . . / they fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass. . . .” In her new poetry collection, Jude Nutter challenges Whitman’s statement by exploring her own responses to war and conflict and, in a voice by turns rueful, dolorous, and imagistic, reveals why she cannot agree.

Nutter, who was born in England and grew up in Germany, has a visceral sense of history as a constant, violent companion. Drawing on a range of locales and historical moments—among them Rwanda, Sarajevo, Nagasaki, and both world wars—she replays the confrontation of personal history colliding with history as a social, political, and cultural force. In many of the poems, this confrontation is understood through the shift from childhood innocence and magical thinking to adult awareness and guilt.

Nutter responds to Whitman from another perspective as well. It was Whitman who wrote that he could live with animals because, among other things, they are placid, self-contained, and guiltless. As counterpoint, Nutter weaves a series of animal poems—a kind of personal bestiary—throughout the collection that reveals the tragedy and violence also inherent in the lives of animals. Here, as in much of Nutter’s previous work, the boundaries between the animal and human worlds are permeable; the urgent voice of the poet insists we recognize that “Even from a distance, suffering / is suffering.” Here is both acknowledgment and challenge: distance may be measured in terms of time, culture, or place, or it may be caused by the gap between animals and humans, but it is our responsibility to speak against atrocity and bloodshed, however voiceless we may feel.

Jude Nutter has published in numerous journals and is the recipient of several national and international poetry awards. Her second collection, The Curator of Silence (University of Notre Dame Press), won the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry and the Ernest Sandeen Prize in 2007. She lives in Edina, Minnesota.

“Driven, almost tormented, by her sense of historical events, by what war accomplishes and destroys, Jude Nutter does the poet’s work of resurrection—she mourns and makes real with language some of the enormous losses suffered, and with her exceptional gifts brings some of the lost back to life to be thought of, considered, and remembered by her readers. It matters when such an accomplished poet insists we pay attention and then shows us what to attend to in this extraordinary new collection of poems.” — Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems

“In poem after poem, Jude Nutter bridges the gap between past and present, loss and reclamation, and does so in expansive, passionate lyrics full of clarity, imagination, and sureness of vision. She is, quite simply, one of the finest poets writing in America today. This is a powerful, poignant volume, each poem ‘a gesture of welcome’ that brings us home to the great healing powers of our language.” — Robert Hedin, author of The Old Liberators: New and Selected Poems and Translations and editor of the Great River Review

“The poems in Jude Nutter’s I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman consistently and beautifully re-imagine the poem of meditation on the atrocities of war. Nutter invokes, invites and revises Whitman’s civil war poems through thoroughly contemporary and female perspectives. These poems haunt and inspire with a lush expansiveness that slams that old mind/body gap quite closed.” — Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of The Resurrection Trade


“Rarely do I come across a book of poems that reads as though it had to be written. When I do, I’m reminded why I read poems in the first place. We’re after magic and to be in the presence of some great alchemy: poets working in a language so vivid that when read aloud it seems both alien and our own, both the first time spoken and to come from somewhere within us. This is the language with which Jude Nutter works. In her third collection, I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman, this Minnesota Book Award-winning poet illuminates the importance and difficulty of bearing witness.” — The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“National and international award-winning poet Jude Nutter presents . . . an anthology of free-verse poetry that examines the tragedies of war and conflict. Nutter takes a different view of such things than the legendary poet Walt Whitman; her verse sings with a heavy heart as she disagrees with him, drawing upon the suffering that has taken place in Rwanda, Sarajevo, Nagasaki, and both world wars. . . . A compelling and thought-provoking collection, highly recommended. . . .” — The Midwest Book Review