Between Earth & Sky
Marquart, Debra. "Between Earth & Sky." New Letters 68, no. 2, 2002: 35-51.
There's a story that goes around in my family that my great-grandmother,
upon seeing the strip of land in central North Dakota that she had
traveled from south Russia by boat, rail, and oxen to claim in 1885,
fell to the ground and cried, "It's all earth and sky."
I'm told it sounded better in German-das ist der Himmel auf
Erden-and I don't doubt it. Growing up as a grandchild of immigrants
in a small town populated largely by ethnic Germans who had fled
Russia around the turn of the century, I was constantly reminded
that everything sounded more clever or grave, more funny or profound
when uttered in the mother tongue.
Perhaps my great-grandmother responded to the treeless, unbroken
plain of grassland in much the same way as did Beret, the Norwegian
pioneer woman in Ole Rolvaag's classic novel of immigrant experience,
Giants in the Earth: "All along the way, coming out,
she had noticed this strange thing: the stillness had grown deeper,
the silence more depressing, the farther west they journeyed: it
must have been over two weeks now since she had heard a bird sing!"
In Giants in the Earth, Beret grows to pathologically
fear the expanse of the plains. She describes it as a "bluish,
green infinity" against which there is no place to hide. When
another pioneer caravan passes through and presses deeper into the
unimaginable void, Beret watches the settlers' wagons as they grow
small on the horizon, "receding farther and farther under the
brow of heaven," until, at last, they disappear. "But
whether into the earth or into the sky," she thinks, "no
one could tell."
What Beret must have sensed was missing in that expanse of green
and blue, and what my great-grandmother may have instinctively feared,
was that missing sliver, a small margin of culture, necessary in
the landscape for survival-not a culture of opera or ballet, but
a culture of potatoes and onions, pots and pans, doilies, curtains,
and bed linens in which children could be fed and sheltered.
Into that negative space, my grandmother must have known, she would
be expected to pour her days and nights, the work of her hands,
and all of her imagination to bring shape to these things. On the
journey across the country, my grandmother was pregnant, as was
the character Beret in Giants in the Earth. On the wagon
as they approach their land, Beret's husband, Per Hansa, thinks
about his wife's condition: "Beret was going to have a baby
again. Only a blessing, of course-but what a lot of their time it
would take up just now! Oh well, she would have to bear the brunt
of it herself, as the woman usually did."
I remember these lines even though I read the novel over fifteen
years ago. I find them easily because they are underlined. I understand
as I read them again that I have been looking for my great-grandmother
for a long time, searching deep in the crevices of old maps and
books for her. Genealogies are never enough. How sad to think of
a whole life reduced to these dry facts-birth and death, marriage
dates, the inadequate word, "wife" or "mother"
chiseled on a tombstone in a graveyard no one knows to visit.
My great-grandmother did not last long in America. She died in
childbirth in February of 1900, fifteen years after her arrival,
trying to deliver her eleventh child, a daughter who would die with
her on that day. And when I read these details in her obituary,
Rolvaag's words ring in my ears: The great plain drinks the
blood of Christian men and is satisfied. I have nothing tangible
with which to gauge the quality of her life-no photographs, no worn-thin
marriage bands, no engraved silver platters-only this single line
she was known to have uttered at one of the most desperate moments
of her life.
Would she understand me, this grandchild of hers, childless at
forty, now as old as she was when she died, living out my life on
the precipice of the millennium, just as her own life straddled
the twentieth-century mark.
She did not leave Russia by choice, I know that now. She left Kandel,
her village on the steppes near the Black Sea, to follow my great-grandfather,
Joseph, who was on the run from the Russian Army. I learn the barest
bones of the story from my older cousin, Tony, who is my father's
age, but who seems to remember better these stories about the old
days. We are sitting at the round oak table in his big kitchen,
listening to him talk about great-grandma and grandpa. My father
has come along to ask his own questions and to hear Tony's answers.
Both men are in their seventies, but they look remarkably young,
as the men in my family tend to. They are both short with slight
builds, and their facial features, like mine, when viewed from certain
angles look slightly Asiatic. But what I notice most as I sit listening
to Tony is how much our hands are alike-small hands with a narrow
palm and a well-shaped thumb-although Tony is missing a joint on
his left middle finger from what I don't ask, but assume was most
likely a farming accident.
What strikes me even more that day is how much our gestures are
alike. As we talk, we all place our hands on the table in front
of us, fingers clasped together in the shape of a pyramid.
Most of my adult life, I have lived out in the world in cities
and university towns with men and women from every conceivable part
of the world, so the sight of so many small hands like my own on
the table before me is stunning. For that moment, I see my hands
as part of an ongoing chain of hands-no longer mine, free to do
anything they please, but bound to my ancestors by blood, mannerism,
and duty. These are the hands I was given to write with. Now what
is there for me to do with them?
Historically, German-Russians were a gentle people whose abilities
blossomed in the presence of plants and animals. Over the centuries,
they sought fertile, low lying plains for their farming-first, the
lush Rhine valley of central Europe in the 1700s, then the rolling
steppes of south Russia in the 1800s. This perfect farmland they
sought-treeless rolling plains-was also the ideal terrain to roll
troops across. Consequently they are the people whose crops have
been trampled by every major ruler who tried to make a land grab
on the continent of Europe.
We German-Russians will never mold history; history will always
roll violently over us. In old war novels and movies, look for us.
We will be the anonymous-dead-nobodies left to rot in the countryside,
our pockets turned out, our shoes stolen, our faces bloodied to
an unrecognizable pulp while the hero destined for history books
marches on to the capital city for victory.
For this reason, I find myself empathizing with the powerless at
every turn. I scan the crowds of refugees on CNN, searching for
faces that look like my great-grandparents. Watching episodes of
Star Trek, I grow anxious for the new crew member, the
one who is not part of the permanent cast, when he is enlisted to
join the Away team. I know he will be the one to catch the incurable
virus or be vaporized on Planet X, ten million light years away
In the same way I have always felt sorry for Antigonus, the loyal
but short-sighted Lord in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale. Faithful
to a fault, he delivers the baby girl-child Perdita to the wild,
stormy hillside where her father, the King, hopes she will perish.
With this act, Antigonus terminates his usefulness.
In fact the plot so requires that Antigonus not reveal the secret
of how he disposed of Perdita (so the surprise is maximized later
in the play when she appears, fully grown) that the only thing left
for the playwright to do is kill him off. Shakespeare disposes of
Antigonus as economically as possible. The sight of that most famous
of stage directions, "Antigonus: Exit, pursued by bear,"
always saddens me. Reading this, I decide never to be useful to
kings. Never to hold their terrible secrets.
How did the German-Russians survive their migrations across warring
regions? Our bodies are small, but we are built low to the ground,
able to hide in times of trouble. Guns have never fit well in our
hands, so molded to the scythe and the plow. To avoid a fight we
have picked up and moved to another continent-in 1808 from Alsace-Lorraine
in central Europe to south Russia; then in 1900 from south Russia
to the Dakota Territory.
But every few generations, a few of us are born angry or stubborn,
or perhaps as foolish as a miniature toy poodle I once observed
who was so yappy and bold that he barred me from passing him on
a sidewalk. He didn't seem to know that even though he was barking
with the confidence of big-poodle genes, in reality he was only
a palm-sized dog.
By all accounts, my great-grandfather, Joseph, was just such a
person, a small man with big plans and lordly instincts. Like Per
Hansa in Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth, he looked out on
the unbroken plain while his wife collapsed in tears beside him
and thought to himself, I am "going to do something remarkable
out here, which should become known far and wide. This kingdom is
going to be mine."
For years it seemed, I found my great-grandfather in every third
novel I read. In Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres, he's the
land-hungry father, Larry Cook; in Willa Cather's O Pioneers!, he's
the land-loving settler John Bergson, who even from the grave would
have appreciated the look of a full field of grain, "so heavy
that it bends toward the blade and cuts like velvet."
In Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, I found my great-grandfather
in the character, Thomas Sutpen, a stranger who appears in Yoknapatawpha
county with a mysterious past, whose goal it is to secure a pedigreed
bride from an old southern family, then come to own one hundred
square miles of land by any means, and create a solid lineage of
children bearing his name straight out of him and into the future.
I see myself as part of that line so carefully constructed by my
great-grandfather's craftiness and talent. I recognize myself in
Absalom, Absalom as the young, preoccupied Quentin Compton,
"listening, having to listen, to one of the ghosts which had
refused to lie still even longer than most had, telling him about
As the bearer of my great-grandfather's name and the first writer
in the family, I am the person to whom the phantoms come late at
night when I am too groggy to identify the full shape of them. Quentin's
very body, Faulkner writes, "was an empty hall echoing with
sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a
commonwealth." My ghosts wave subtle whiffs of stories before
my sleeping nose, then tell me to construct the rest out of the
disconnected unreadable fragments.
In the only picture I have of my great-grandfather, he's sitting
on a wooden bench in front of an old storefront. He's wearing a
trim black suit and a brimmed hat. The image is grainy and has been
copied many times. It's hard to make out the features of his face
because he's wearing glasses and a thick mustache with his brim
pulled down over his face. He looks like someone in disguise, and
perhaps he is. The story in our family is that he removed the letter
"d" from our name, Marquardt, when he came to America
in order to throw off the scent of the Russian military, whose long
arm, he was certain, could stretch to the Dakota Territory and find
From the photo, one can see his directness-he has aimed his body
into the lens. He's stilled himself and straightened his back for
the snap of the camera. Something in the set of his jaw says, posterity,
like he knows about the fact of me and is confident that I, a person
of his blood, will be here seventy years later staring back at him.
He looks relaxed, as if he's in town on a sunny day with all the
other old farmers to complain about wheat prices, shipping costs,
and the lack of rain. This picture reminds me of a poem by the North
Dakota poet, Roland Flint, that depicts two immigrant farmers encountering
each other in front of the Luxury Ice Cream and Creamery on the
main street of their small town:
where that Norwegian farmer asked another,
"Are you in town today, too, then?" "No,"
said the other, "I just come in with the cream."
As if to be in town you had to be in town,
to be there.
In this picture, my great-grandfather is in town. His legs are
set wide; his hands are resting confidently on each knee, as if
all real work in life has been done. Against the backdrop of his
thin black suit, his hands appear massive, his fingers like rows
of thick sausages, his fists huge as hamhocks. Surely this is an
optical illusion. In the context of the picture, his hands appear
larger than his face or his thin neck. They look brutish, as if
they have grasped for much in their life, growing more enormous,
perhaps, with each acquisition. These are the hands, I think, that
got us out of Russia.
In 1880, when my great-grandfather was a young man of twenty-four
in Kandel, his village in south Russia-my cousin Tony tells me this
story-he was of the first generation of German colonists to be drafted
into the Russian military. Before this time, the German-Russians
were under the special protection of the Czar and were guaranteed
certain privileges, including freedom from taxation, freedom of
religion, and freedom from military service.
By January of 1874, after the disaster of the Crimean War and the
emancipation of the serfs, the special status of the German colonists
and other minorities within the Russian empire changed. Czar Alexander
II's war minister, Dmitri A. Miliutin decreed that "the defense
of the fatherland forms the sacred duty of every Russian citizen."
I do not know the details of my great-grandfather's induction into
the army or where he served, although I have heard stories from
other German-Russian families of military convoys arriving in the
villages late at night, going door to door and demanding from each
household young men to serve. I have read of women hiding their
sons in the rafters, knowing that young men rarely return whole
if they return at all. I have also read of those Russian soldiers
stepping into the houses and firing their weapons through the roofs
of houses to discourage the practice of hiding sons in rafters.
I do not know in which Russian battles or wars, if any, my great-grandfather
fought or if he ever killed a man. It's only from his obituary that
I learn he rose somehow to the rank of officer.
It's my older cousin Tony who remembers Great-Grandpa telling the
story of why he fled to America in 1885 and how he was smuggled
out of south Russia-fins-terheit is the word Tony says
Great-Grandpa used, under cover of darkness. I ask Tony, what could
have caused him to run away from military service, to jeopardize
the future of his family, his wife and children, and all his property.
Around the slim skeleton of this story, there were, no doubt, many
heart-pounding moments of terror and excitement, but these have
all fallen away over the last 110 years. The short answer, the only
one that remains, is that one day my great-grandfather flew into
a rage and struck a commanding officer-a feld veilv, as
cousin Tony recalls the title, a Russian field marshal.
I try to imagine the harsh conditions inside the Russian Imperial
army, where an individual soldier's life has been described by many
historians as without worth. In The Russian Century, a collection
of previously unpublished photographs that document Russian life,
the editors Annabel Merullo and Sarah Jackson have reprinted a casual
black-and-white photograph of the Czar's army taken in a wooded
area. Hundreds of uniformed men have crowded together in a small
clearing, the men in the front sitting on the ground, the men in
the middle sitting on stools, and those in back standing. The faces
go on and on, deep into the woods, each face a small cameo of a
life, each face someone's father, husband, and son whose death will
send streams of grief through the lines of extended family that
"In the Great War ledger," the German commander Hindenburg
who fought the Russians wrote, "the page on which the Russian
losses were written has been torn out. No one knows the figure.
Five millions or eight millions? We too have no idea. All we know
is that sometimes in our battles with the Russians we had to remove
the mounds of enemy corpses in order to get a clear field of fire
against fresh assaulting waves."
Here Hindenburg is writing about the army of the early twentieth
century, a time when conditions had improved inside the Russian
military. In his book, From Catherine to Khrushchev, Adam
Giesinger describes the fate of the peasant soldier before the military
reforms of 1874 as a "fearsome one. To the poor serf who had
the misfortune of being drafted, his fate was worse than a term
in the penitentiary." Typically, Giesinger writes, terms of
service were twenty-five years, and "to his family, his leave-taking
was the same as death."
Even though Tolstoy's War and Peace is set during the
Napoleonic wars-around the time that my ancestors first arrived
in Russia-the scenes that Tolstoy paints of the hungry army on the
move are vivid and useful to my imaginings.
Half the regiments have formed themselves into free companies,
scouring the countryside and putting everything to fire and sword.
The inhabitants were ruined, root and branch.
I try to imagine my great-grandfather in the middle of this chaos
and ask what kind of a dispute would be important enough to cause
him, an ethnically German minor officer serving against his will
within the Russian army to abandon all concern for self-preservation
and strike a powerful Russian superior. As an act this is not consistent
with what I know about my meek and evasive ancestors. With this
detail I must come to terms with either how cheeky, principled,
and irrepressibly proud my great-grandfather was, or how foolish
and impulsive he may have been.
I'd like to imagine him as a young man, my great-grandfather, one
of those thousands in his long dusty greatcoat on the move with
his regiment, which Tolstoy vividly describes in War and Peace:
On every side, behind and before, as far as the ear could hear
there was the creaking of wheels, the rumble of wagons, carts,
and gun-carriages, the tramp of hooves, the cracking of whips,
the shouts of drivers urging on their horses, the cursing of soldiers,
orderlies and officers. Lying by the sides of the road were the
carcasses of dead horses, some flayed, some not, and broken-down
carts beside which solitary soldiers sat waiting for something;
then again he saw soldiers straying from the main column and hastening
in bands to the neighboring villages or returning from them dragging
fowls, sheep, hay or bulging sacks.
Would he have been part of the order or the chaos, my great-grandfather?
Somewhere in this scene, I know, he takes a swing, connects with
another man's chin or stomach or chest. Was alcohol involved? Stolen
property? The unfair treatment of fellow soldiers? Women? I look
for clues about the harsh conditions of his service everywhere in
War and Peace.
At each slope, up and down, of the road the crowds packed closer
and the din of shouting was more incessant. Soldiers floundering
knee-deep in mud pulled at the guns and wagons themselves. Whips
cracked, hooves slipped, traces gave way and lungs were split
with yelling. The officers directing the retreat rode back and
forth among the wagons. Their voices were but feebly audible amid
the general uproar and their faces betrayed their despair of being
able to check the chaos.
According to my cousin Tony's memory, my great-grandfather survived
his act of insubordination with the help of a fellow officer, also
a German. Would a court martial or the firing squad have awaited
him at daybreak? The German superior must have been powerful enough
to accomplish the things that I know from the family story happened
next-he was smuggled that night out of the country and eventually
made his way to Bremen, Germany, where he spent several months waiting
for my great-grandmother and their children to follow.
I imagine him that night waiting for light to fall, so that he
can make his planned escape. Things have been arranged for him,
but still there is much danger. In the background, the troops are
stirring. In War and Peace, Tolstoy describes such a night
on the warfront:
In the dark it seemed as though a sombre invisible river flowed
on and on in one direction, murmuring with whispers and the droning
of voices, the sound of hooves and wheels. Amid the general hum,
clearer than all the other voices in the blackness of the night,
rose the groans of the wounded. The gloom that enveloped the army
was filled with their cries. Their groaning was one with the blackness
of the night.
Away from this noise of darkness and gloom, this moaning of the
wounded, my great-grandfather rode, as if floating on that invisible
river. As he rides, the sound of the army diminishes, becomes softer
and softer until all he can hear is the sound of his horse, the
clopping of hooves on the dark path. So nice for him-a farmer by
trade-to be back in the presence of pure nature. He carries with
him a sack with a few small potatoes in it, a pinch of salt. He
stops by the side of the road to eat and draw some water from a
stream. Perhaps he has a companion to help him across the border;
perhaps he is alone.
He sits down by the creek and listens to the wind moving through
the trees, feels the cool grass beneath him. He is tired and a bit
stunned, no doubt, at the events that have transpired in the last
twenty-four hours. He thinks of his wife, my great-grandmother,
and of his two small daughters back in the village on the Dniester
river just north of the Black Sea. Will he ever see them again.
Will he see his own mother and father, the church where he was married,
the school where he taught before he was inducted. Will he ever
again see the graves where his grandparents are buried, or the flat,
fertile fields he worked with his father as a young man? Before
him in that long night are only unknowns and a silence that stretches
out into the darkness.
It's so easy to think of our ancestors' lives as stories resolved.
They hover over our left shoulders like wise, old souls we draw
courage from during our own hard times. When we look at them in
pictures, we see them as people whose lives are settled, written,
and complete before ours have even begun. But behind those masks
of settlers' faces in old photographs, behind those serious black
clothes, one can be certain that great suffering and deeply conflicted
thoughts were going on-a woman's pinched mouth betrays a lifetime
of anger stored up against her husband; a child is itchy and uncomfortable
in new clothes; a husband's confused expression shows he wonders
why his wife produces only daughters and no sons.
For this moment, where I find my great-grandfather on a riverbank
fleeing court martial, I want to think of him simply as a young
man, as uncertain of his future as I am in my own life each day.
He is sitting in the dark by a creek somewhere in southwestern Russia,
eating stale bread, on the run from the Russian military. For this
moment, he is simply a traveler-out of all place and time. None
of the assurances of the photographs he will take later in life
in America are with him now.
Does he tear off a piece of bread, try to calm himself. He is twenty-eight
years old. Beside him on the ground is the small, olive-colored
wool blanket he will sleep on. Does his companion talk too much
or too little? Close to them in the night, chewing and snuffling,
are the horses they will ride to the border.
He thinks about how he has just committed the most brilliant or
the most stupid act of his life, and right now he has no idea which
of either it is. The only thing to do is to rest his head on the
ground, feel his heart beat, listen to the stream move in the darkness,
and know that he is as alone, helpless, and untethered in the world
as he has ever been.
The ground beneath his head that night is some of the most consistently
inhabited and well-traveled real estate in the world-the great Pontic
steppe, which throughout time has been the contact zone for groups
as diverse as the Kurgan people, the Scythians, who traveled in
nomadic packs west across the steppes from Siberia, and the Sarmartians,
another nomadic Indo-Iranian group migrating west out of the steppe
between the Volga and Don rivers.
According to Neal Ascherson's Black Sea, the land where
my great-grandfather lays his head this quiet night in 1885, has
been the stomping grounds for a "succession of ethnicities:
Tatar villages; colonies of Russian veteran soldiers and their descendants;
settlements of Polish exiles; neat farming districts where almost
everyone was German; Cossack stanitsas ('stations' or 'villages');
Jewish shtetls." This land has been home to the Greeks,
Thracians, the Prussians, Armenians, and the Moldovans, all in their
Ascherson reports that near the Dniester liman-the river
that flows next to the village where my great-grandmother sleeps
peacefully for this last night-is the ruins of the ancient colony
of Tyras, surrounded by the huge Turkish fortress of Akerman which
has been partially buried by the waters of the encroaching Black
How did the German colonists come to believe-a mere seventy-five
years into their inhabitation of it-that they belonged so completely
to this Russian Steppe? But I understand this feeling of surety.
When I was a child growing up in North Dakota, with a mere seventy-five
years of family land ownership to assure me, I could not imagine
a time when my hometown would not be in the middle of North Dakota.
I could not have imagined a time when a member of my family would
not live on this land that our great-grandfather had forged for
us. In this surety, there is a comfort the effects of which cannot
be easily described or assessed.
"A pioneer should have imagination," Willa Cather observes
in O Pioneers! They "should be able to enjoy the idea
of things more than the things themselves." And O.E. Rolvaag
seems to agree. In Giants in the Earth, his character Per
Hansa observes about his wife, Beret: "She has never felt at
home here in America. There are some people, I know now, who never
should emigrate, because, you see, they can't take pleasure in that
which is to come-they simply can't see it!"
From the few words I have to remember my great-grandmother by-
"It's all earth and sky"-I can't say for sure whether
she possessed imagination. But from the parts of her story that
I do know, it's clear she was brave. She would have had to liquidate
all of the family's assets before leaving Kandel to meet my great-grandfather
in Bremen where he waited for her. The exhausting trip across eastern
Europe with all their possessions and the balance of their money,
as well as their two small children from the steppes to Bremen by
rail, then to America by boat, then, pregnant, across the country
to Dakota Territory by train, and finally to her homestead by oxen,
must have felt like some weird regression, as if she were traveling
back in time, back to her own grandparents' Danube trek from the
Rhine valley east to Russia in 1808. Did the irony occur to her-two
generations later, they were starting all over in the wilderness,
Back in the villages, she would have had to leave behind her neat
home, the fenced-in yard, the vineyards and the graveyards where
her grandparents were buried. She would have had to say goodbye
not only to her own family, but also to my great-grandfather's side
of the family. From their arms, she would have pulled her two small
daughters and stepped onto the departing train.
I wonder how these people, with their long history of dramatic
migrations, could bear one more farewell? I realize now, from reading
Joseph Height's description of the original flight in 1808 of my
Alsatian ancestors to Russia during the time of the French revolution,
that my great-grandfather's secretive evacuation out of Russia was
simply part of an old, recurring pattern with which the colonists
would have been familiar. In Paradise on the Steppe, Height
describes the conditions under which the colonists had left their
families behind in the Rhine valley in 1808:
There was no public send-off. No bell to toll the sad hour of
their departure from their native lands. No song of farewell resounded
in their ears. No priest imparted a last blessing for their long
and hazardous journey. Traveling under cover of darkness, small
groups moved stealthily along unfrequented roads and hidden by-ways.
Later when she arrived in the Dakota Territory and saw the devastating
conditions, how did she find the strength to stay? Perhaps, as Carrie
Young observes in her memoir about her own Scandinavian mother who
pioneered in the Dakota Territory: "The women who followed
their husbands out must have received a shock from which it was
difficult to recover. . . . Fortunately for their husbands, there
was nothing to do but stay."
When settlers arrived in North America, Richard Manning writes
in his book about the plains, Grasslands, they discovered
not the god of the hedged-in, safe villages back in Europe, the
New Testament god, which Manning describes as the "god of logic
derived from thirty centuries of civilization." Instead, they
encountered the god of Job, Manning says, "the god of fire
and plague, a brutal and capricious creator like the predecessor
god of the Christians, the Old Testament deity that had not yet
consented to grace."
Perhaps this is why, as Willa Cather notes in O Pioneers!,
"the Bible seemed truer here," and it's also why the character
Beret in Giants in the Earth admonishes those around her
about abandoning their Christian beliefs: "Man have power?
Breathe it not, for that is to tempt the Almighty!" I feel
certain this is what drove my great-grandmother to the ground that
first day, the realization that she had come face to face with the
god-of-no-promises to whom she must prostrate herself.
And what did my great-grandfather see in the emptiness as he stood
beside her? From all accounts, he saw only open space and promise,
as if he could reach his hands up and pull down heaven.
He had seen the fancy broadside posters back in Europe that were
printed to lure immigrants to the American west. "America,
Land of Opportunity," the posters had said, and now he could
see with his own eyes they hadn't lied. In a few years, with the
work of his own hands, everything would be there before him-he could
almost see it now-the endless fields of wheat waving like spun gold
in the wind.
Our appreciation is extended to Debra Marquart for
permission to republish this article.
About the Author
An associate professor of English, Debra Marquart is the poetry
editor of Flyway Literary Review and the Coordinator of
the Creative Writing Program at Iowa State University, Ames. Ms.
Marquart's work has appeared in numerous journals such as North
American Review, Three Penny Review, New Letters,
River City, Zone 3, Cumberland Poetry Review,
Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, and Witness.
In the seventies and eighties, Marquart was a touring band road
musician with roch and heavy metal bands. Her collection of short
stories, The Hunger Bone: Rock & Roll Stories (New
River Press, 2001) draws from her experiences as a female road musician.
Marquart continues to perform with a jazz-poetry rhythm & blues
projects, The Bone People, with whom she released two CDs in 1996:
Orange Parade (acoustic rock); and A Regular Dervish
Marquart's poetry collections are Everything's Verb (New
River Press, 1995) and From Sweetness (Pear Editions, 2002).
She is currently at work on a memoir, The Horizontal Life: On
Rebellion and Return, about growing up a rebellious farmer's
daughter on a North Dakota wheat farm.
Debra Marquart is a native of Napoleon, Logan County, in south
central North Dakota, settled in the 1880s and 1890s by many Germans
from Russia immigrants from South Russia, today near Odessa, Ukraine.
Her undergraduate studies were at Moorhead State University, Moorhead,
Minnesota, 1984; Master of Liberal Arts, Creative Writing, Moorhead
State University; and Master of Arts, 1990, Creative Writing, Iowa
State University, Ames, 1993.