My Mind’s Eye
Poems by Marshall Witten
with Illustrations by Elaine Franz Witten
Drawn from episodes over a long life, the poems of My Mind’s Eye survey the joys and sorrows, the affirmations and contractions of the world. The natural world becomes a mirror for human actions. And if simplicity is sometimes trampled by our greed and recklessness, knowing our true place restores at least a corner of the world.
About the Author & Artist
Marshall Witten, having practiced law for more than 50 years, has turned on his retirement to writing poetry. The natural world inspires many of his poems, as do politics, philosophy, travel, human relationships, aging, and death.
His poems have appeared in The Mountain Troubadour, published by the Poetry Society of Vermont. One of his poems was awarded honorable mention in the 2016 W.B. Yeats Society of NY international competition. In 2016 he published a chapbook, Meditations on Change.
Before retiring, Marshall spent several years as a prosecutor in the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, followed by more than half a century practicing in Vermont. He trained many young lawyers – imparting both a superb knowledge of substantive law and high ethical standards.
Beyond his legal career, Marshall held a variety of public service positions, many focusing on higher education. He chaired the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees for 13 years. He also served on the National Commission on the Responsibilities for Financing Post-Secondary Education.
As an elected public servant, Marshall served as Bennington County State’s Attorney, and later in the Vermont House of Representatives chaired the Vermont House Appropriations Committee. He was a founding director and later served as chair of the Vermont Community Foundation.
He now lives with his wife, a professional artist who has illustrated his three books. They live at the end of a road in rural Vermont, take long walks with their dog; he shovels snow when necessary, and writes because it’s always necessary.
Elaine Franz Witten majored in art at Connecticut College, New London, CT. She took her first sculpture course at Columbia University, N.Y.C. Decades later, after raising three children and working as a Registered Nurse, she returned to sculpture. Her nurse’s knowledge of anatomy informs her work. She was mentored by Jane Armstrong, Fellow N.S.S. Elaine’s career in art now spans thirty years.
Elaine is a national and international award-winning sculptor. She casts bronzes in the ancient lost-wax method. Her bronzes have been exhibited in over one hundred forty national and international exhibitions and solo shows, and museums. Her work is in public and private collections in U.S., Canada, and in the private collection of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. In 2013, Elaine became a purveyor of sculptures to the U.S. State Department. Her work was chosen for Presidential gifts by President Obama. Elaine has taught sculpture workshops in Vermont for the last sixteen years. Her work is represented by galleries in Dorset, VT, Saratoga, NY, Newport, RI, Kennebunkport, ME, and Wellington, FL. She is a past Trustee of The College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT.
Elaine paints in oil, watercolor and also renders ink drawings. Painting in a “poetic realism” style, she intuitively captures how her experience of living with nature in rural Vermont affects her and her artistic voice. Before illustrating My Mind’s Eye, Elaine produced ink illustrations for Marshall’s previous books, Reflections on Change and Remembering Harvey. Her cover drawing was inspired by the questioning mind and discerning eye of the poet.
Book Launch / Readings:
The Poetry Box LIVE – September Edition
Early Praise for My Mind’s Eye:
I’ve long thought that important poetry’s basis is human maturity, a clear-eyed awareness, which some never attain, of the human condition in its full actuality. By this measure, Marshall Witten’s My Mind’s Eye—by turns wry, deeply loving, empathetic, and soberly realistic—is a signal achievement, a monument to a long life well and attentively lived. At one point, the poet writes, “The real risks and tests of life/ are learning how to trust and love.” My Mind’s Eye is testimony to one man’s having triumphantly met such challenges, its salutary conclusion being that “We have this moment; do not let it slip/ away unnoticed; keep it in your grip.” The world feels a safer and saner place for the lessons in this stirring volume.
—Sydney Lea, Vermont Poet Laureate (2011-2015)
Marshall Witten’s My Mind’s Eye views experience through the lens of a poet’s observations. One poem states “To look is to ask…”—and that is what these poems do. He explores Vermont’s rich and contradictory seasons of intense winter and spring’s rebirth. Narratives tell gentle stories of saving salamanders who cross the road every spring to return to vernal ponds. He witnesses a fox and vixen dancing, a bear eying sheep, a goshawk hovering, and shares the humor in how the barred owl’s advertises for a mate. His poems take you on some of his life’s adventures, (at least one is somewhat perilous) from the Uffizi Gallery to Zen meditation, a loving wife, and his walks with his dog Charlie down a road between trees that threaten to be widow-makers. Several of Witten’s poems scrutinize recent political events, the “combing over” of bald truth and air-brushed lies, and the grief of climate change. Throughout, he holds on to the password to his soul.
One of my favorite poems describes the passing of time measured in the slow failure of car parts. Tucked throughout the book are Witten’s poems that tell of a lifelong friendship with Harvey to whom the book is dedicated. Resonant with the old saying to have a friend you must be a friend, Witten’s tender poems about Harvey span from college days into aging and declining capacities.
Elaine Franz Witten’s drawings illustrate My Mind’s Eye and focus the sensitivity of Witten’s poetic vision.
—Tricia Knoll, author Broadfork Farm
and How I Learned to Be White