WVU retired professor Judith Gold Stitzel releases personal memoir exploring love, loss, grief and hope
“Field Notes from Grief: The First Year” is a unique collaboration of author and retired West Virginia University professor Judith Gold Stitzel and artist Claudia Giannini, based on the private journals Stitzel kept during the year after her husband’s death. They had been married for 47 years.
“It took a while before I fully accepted that my pages were valuable, not only as a stimulus for my friend’s compelling images, but for what they had to say to others,” Gold Stitzel said.
When she moved from the private to the public realm, the resulting book maintained the spontaneity, contradictions and even confusion of the original experiences as they were unfolding.
The accompanying images of printmaker/photographer Claudia Giannini do not illustrate the journal, but rather translate grief and gratitude into the lexicon of color and design. Digital photographs taken during each month were printed on Japanese paper onto which prints of Stitzel’s hand-written journal pages were transferred. Plants, animals, words in different alphabets and shapes relate to the time of year or her writing in a kind of free association.
As grief counselor Stephanie Savitch points out, the images help to focus on the passage of time, while the separate entries allow the reader to choose her or his own pace through the year.
According to poet Natasja Saj�, Judith Gold Stitzel “rejects the clich�s customarily offered to and by the bereaved and offers painful truths that cleanse even as they hurt. But there is humor as well as candor, and both make the book accessible to anyone who has suffered a loss. Ultimately “Fields Notes From Grief: The First Year” refreshes the reader and provides evidence – especially important to those who are grieving –that they will want to go on again.”
Judith Gold Stitzel is a retired professor of English and women’s studies at West Virginia University where she and her husband, Bob, started their teaching careers in 1965. She was the founding director of the WVU Center for Women’s Studies. She has published fiction, nonfiction and literary criticism in Colorado Quarterly, Frontiers, a Journal of Women Studies, College English, Green Mountain Review and other journals and anthologies. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Vermont College and has twice been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Stitzel resides in Morgantown, W.Va.
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