-- John Steinbeck’s best-selling classic The Grapes of Wrath proved quite controversial. The novel follows the fictional Joad family, fleeing Dust Bowl Oklahoma for a new start in California. The second week of April 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of his epic saga--an ideal opportunity to discover a remarkable woman and her work--specifically, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel’s life and poetry. As a teen, Wilma’s family was forced to embark on this same journey West, which Wilma chronicled so well in her body of writing and poetry. Her spare, accessible language conjures moving, visceral images that transport the reader to scenes and emotions from the poet’s Oklahoma youth, juxtaposed with her wrenching displacement to California, where she spent the remaining six decades of her life. What an appropriate anniversary of literary connection, given the tenuous times of the American experience some eighty years down the road.
-- McDaniel wrote voluminously of her culture. Wilma’s sharecropper family was forced from Oklahoma in 1936 by the Great Depression and massive dust storms; one among the thousands of families that made their desperate exodus to California in search of survival. As a teenager she brought with her “the fire and burden of poetry,” which remained her constant and often critical companion her entire life.
-- In conjunction with National Poetry Month in April 2013, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO) presented a Literary Landmark Dedication honoring poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel and the Stroud Public Library, where Wilma had sent copies of a number of her chapbooks, books and some original papers to be archived. The town of Stroud, Oklahoma is nearest to the vicinity where Wilma was born and spent her younger years. A bronze plaque signifying Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel’s place in Oklahoma literary history was placed at the Library. The state of Oklahoma also has ten other Literary Landmark sites--honoring Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers and other Oklahomans.
-- An Illustrated Bibliography of Titles by Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel featured here is a fairly comprehensive resource for those interested in learning more about this unique American poet and her lifework.
-- [An Added Note of Interest]: In 2012 the California Department of Transportation unveiled their template for future highway reststops with the refurbished, rededicated Phillip S. Raine roadside rest area, located on Highway 99 between the Central Valley towns of Tulare and Tipton. Over twenty columns bearing titled, full-color graphic display panels give visitors and viewers an impressive snapshot history of California and its Great Central Valley, from earliest human and animal inhabitants to people and historical events that shaped today’s state. Two panels highlight poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel. ‘Voices of the Valley’ includes a portrait of Wilma by Roman Loranc, along with a quote by the poet; included are fellow Central Valley poets, writers, playwrights and musicians. ‘Water Towers’ features Wilma’s poem Valley Fog, accompanied by photos of eighteen water towers from a sampling of Central Valley communities, including Tulare, Wilma’s adopted hometown.
-- With exceptions, most hail from the Central San Joaquin Valley and western Sierra Nevada foothills of California. Native California poet
-- The Elder by Monolin “Manny” Moreno and Chasing Fireflies: The Dust Bowl Childhood of a Poet by Jeanie Harris are the most recent editions presented by Back40.
All poetry and prose by Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel presented on this website © Back40 Publishing, Sebastopol, California and are posted
on these pages in tribute to, in memory of, and as an informative resource highlighting the late poet and her literary legacy--all rights reserved.
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