Men and Their Whims
Men and Their Whims explores the relationship between Matilda Fletcher (1842-1909) and her younger brother, Geo. Geo served in the Illinois infantry during the Civil War, but his tour was brief due to an illness he contracted that left him partially deaf. He was discharged to return to his home where he later married and had children. In 1905, Geo was charged with murder and sentenced to life in the state prison in Joliet, IL. Matilda writes that Geo was jumped at a saloon. Somehow Spencer Post, one of the men involved and a friend of Geo’s, was stabbed. The injury hit Post’s femoral artery. He bled to death. Between 1905 and 1909, Matilda challenged the court's sentence, asking for Geo’s freedom. Her third book documents this work. She died shortly after it's publication in Rockford, Illinois. Men and Their Whims ponders Geo’s relationships and the circumstances that lead to the charge of murder.
Men and Their Whims displays poet Laura Madeline Wiseman’s familiar passion for her characters and knack for page-turning personable narrative. As in the University of Nebraska faculty’s other writings, underlying issues of gender, politics, war and sexual identity are interwoven in this eloquent, touching 19th century story of Matilda and George Fletcher (native Iowan siblings) using research and imagination, subtle irony and wit.
– Cactus Heart
Praise for Men and Their Whims
Men and their Whims, offers readers a thought-provoking relationship between form and content. Evocative vignettes of Civil War love, loss, and trauma are presented in beautifully crafted couplets, tercets, and prose passages. Within these pristinely wrought historical portraits, Wiseman gives us with a poignant fragmentation of meaning, calling our attention to the inherent instability of history, narrative, and collective memory. – Kristina Marie Darling
Laura Madeline Wiseman is a poet of great courage and intelligence; and in this remarkable new book, she invites us to pass through a window to a time during and around the Civil War, when the machinery of death touched almost everyone. Against this backdrop and working with the subjects of forbidden love, lost love, betrayal, and grief, she writes poems which are haunting and powerful, sometimes heartbreaking and always truthful. These are poems of the human spirit, written with a clear eye and a compassionate heart. – Lucy Adkins
In Men and Their Whims, Laura Madeline Wiseman digs deep into the lives of 19th century lecturer and poet Matilda Fletcher and her brother, George W. Felts. Borrowing from the official record and adding to it her own powerful voice, Wiseman uncovers two equally important manifestations of history: the stories and anecdotes that comprise the public record, and the quiet moments and intimate details between these siblings that comprise a largely invisible, but no less urgent, private history. The poems are filled with well-researched facts, public figures such as Walt Whitman and Ulysses S. Grant, and the upheaval and aftermath of the Civil War. Yet, they retain a level of detail and candor not often found in any history book. Matilda’s great strength, her sense of ethics and empathy, come to life as she first campaigns for Grant, and later attempts to free her brother from an unfair imprisonment. Wiseman also gives voice to George W. Felts, Matilda’s brother, about whom little is known.... – William Reichard