From the poet:
Water~Dreaming draws from the history of the destruction of the Swift River Valley in western Massachusetts during the 1930s. Although Cora Snow is my invention, many of the events and characters in her world are based on records from that time. In order to provide water for Boston, the 1927 Swift River Act authorized a reservoir’s construction. Towns were emptied of their people, both the living and those buried. Buildings were removed or razed. Vegetation was cleared, its remains burned. The mammoth engineering project ensued, and by the fall of 1938 the area was evacuated. Flooding began on August 14, 1939. It took seven years for Quabbin Reservoir to fill to its capacity of 412,000,000,000 gallons. The Swift River Valley’s rivers, streams, and brooks were often described as being of “almost prehistoric clarity and taste.” Eight decades later, the lake continues to be an essential source of greater Boston’s water supply. The losses to the former families of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott, and nearby villages remain immeasurable.
“… Water~Dreaming brings us a fluid world where cycles of descent and ascent collage a disappeared life. Like fragments of lost myths or quilt patches, Callanan’s lyrical short poems hint at a larger fabric beyond the towns flooded in 1939 to provide water for the Boston area and generations to come; once native tribes lived on this lost land and earlier settlers had made it their home. A dead girl floats through this waterscape, recounting for us, in her clear and ringing voice, snatches of the lives of other ghosts. As she moves, she captures the physical world she knew with its hollyhocks and cinnamon ferns, its deer and warbler, and her/our loss, which is also an acceptance. Life goes on, and even though a whisper of the world at war can be heard among the dead, this too signals another cycle. These are poems haunted by loss, yet alive with an appreciation of ‘this place, you, my truth now’ and an acknowledgment of the currents we can only partially control. A lovely but bittersweet paean to life.”
-Mary Crow, former poet laureate of Colorado
“…There is much at work in Callanan’s haunting and lyrical collection that finds its basis in the largely forgotten history of the destruction of the Swift River Valley (1937-1938) to enable the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. The poems tell the stories of the townspeople of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott, who were forced to leave their homes, towns, valleys and fields, which were subsequently razed. The poems are rich, dense, and wrenching—at once grounded in history but also dancing in the space between the visible and the invisible worlds. Poetry brings us all kinds of gifts—it can warm our hearts, stir our spirits, tilt our heads, remind us of rhythm, or tell us a story we needed to hear. Water-Dreaming does all of these things, and so much more. It is an ambitious book, and a remarkable accomplishment.”
-Lisa J. Starr, former poet laureate of Rhode Island
“A book to keep on your bedside table or in the tin box that holds your dearest things. … This book will make you feel you’ve been on a long journey, led by a gentle and considerate spirit, through all airs and waters, to all the deepest truths, to the living and the dead, and set down at the end, safe and nourished, all of life shimmering. … Uncompromising in her quest to fathom how life truly is in this water-land where we dwell, and brave in the face of the most devastating of things, Deirdre Callanan is that rarest of poets: one who can deliver us the stoniest and fiercest truths and leave us shivering with joy. … Water-Dreaming is a celebration. Through keen observations of nature, scrumptious evocations of childhood, delicate metaphors, lightly-brushed images, and a moving story of a lost world, our deepest losses and loves are fathomed, mirrored and affirmed. We stand at the close of the last page, weeping, triumphant.”
-Sara Taber, author of Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter and other literary non-fiction