Donna Meredith Interviews Philip Gerard

Donna Meredith

How did you choose “The Patron Saint of Dreams” to be your title piece for the collection?

PG:  That essay tells the story of my mother’s death — and my inability to write about her illness and death for a long time. Then one night I dreamed of her — and this dream was a release and then I could write about her. Writing about her death freed me to then write about her life. Thus this essay and the title of the collection. In addition, everything in this book comes back to her encouragement when I was younger.

How many years of your writing life does this collection span?

PG:  The notes for “Bear Country” date back to 1974. So the essays developed over many years. Most were published over the last decade.

Did you have an overarching theme in mind as you selected the essays for this collection? What were the criteria you used to decide which to include?

PG:  The essays in this collection all address a mystery of sorts and perhaps that was always in mind as they were selected.

The collection tickles at the outer edges of what is knowable. You end with the voice on the radio. “South latitude. South.” What did you hope to convey with the repetition of that word as the final note of the book?

PG:  Well it should have been an impossibility to hear that voice. Typically, the marine radio only picks up signals within the line of sight, 25 miles or so. That woman had to be 1000 miles away. Yet, I heard it. So the impossible happened. The echo for me is the possibility that the seemingly impossible event does happen.

You are an avid sailor. What has been your most memorable or enjoyable voyage to date? Do you write while on board?

PG:  There have been so many memorable and enjoyable voyages. Some are short trips close to home — one day we sailed through a school of hundreds of milky white jellyfish. They were so beautiful. We also enjoyed swimming while anchored as a small school of dolphin arced out of the water nearby. Particularly memorable were the longer voyages, on the Brilliant and the Pride of Baltimore. Helming the Pride of Baltimore through a long night watch in a strong gale was particularly memorable. I always have a notebook to keep ideas, but the longer work occurs once back home.

As part of the Hub City Writers Project, how does the Project help you as a writer? How do you assist the Project?

PG:  The sense of community fostered by the Hub City Writers Project is almost beyond measure. This dedicated group really captures a special love for books, for words. To have the support of such a dedicated team is moving. A small press is able to take time to be present with the writer and his/her work. As one of their writers, I have had the pleasure to participate in their conference and interact with their member writers.

In your essay on scars, you detail your exterior scars. You also repeat Dickey’s assertion that we own our faces after age forty, that they reveal our stories. What do you think your face might reveal about you? (Maybe you could ask your wife what she thinks.)

PG:  From Jill — Philip’s face, for me, reveals a truly caring and honorable man. His eyes are gentle and calm and encouraging: this is how he is on a daily basis too. It is a face that welcomes.

What are you working on now?

PG:  I’ve just finished a book that captures a journey down the Cape Fear River from the headwaters to the sea. The book tells both the tale of our journey and the story of the river itself. I’m also working on a series of first person narratives for Our State magazine which capture the capture the war in North Carolina as it unfolds.


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