A Place to Pay Attention - Bonnie Thurston

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Bonnie Thurston’s collection celebrates her mountain homeland in West Virginia – its rugged beauties and its history, evoking the blend  of present and past, the land’s conformation, its story, its independent people – and its grip on the poet’s heart.

This is as deeply her home as it was that of the l8th century ‘over mountain men’. The shoals of the Watauga, which in 1780 sang of freedom, still sing ‘free and strong’…

There is no complacency here. Among the leaves may be coiled a deadly copperhead, in the woods one may meet with a black bear and her cubs. And the poet says ‘I know an original darkness/shadows all our seeing’. Yet time and again we get glimpses of festivals and observance, and the trust that, in the half-darkness of a clouded moon, allows the poet to feel gratitude for not needing ‘to know/the pattern or end of (her) orbit’ - Ruth Bidgood


A pleasure it was to read these poems filled with such spirit and abiding concern for places that nurture the soul. As Thurston writes in ‘Personal Geography’,  ‘we are marked / by the place we call home, / not the house or people / […] / but by the land.’  A prolific author of books on spirituality and Biblical scholarship, it is not surprising to find poems revealing personal aspects of her faith. Her use of the Genesis account of Abram leaving his homeland in ‘Emptying the Family Home’ is masterful. Its evocative conclusion reads: ‘Now we must be present where we are.’ In this book of rooted poems, we are never far from knowing this call to both know ‘where we are’ and to be ‘present’ in that ‘where’ which, for Thurston, remains the mountains of Appalachia. - Marc Harshman

Bonnie Thurston, a native of southern West Virginia, lives quietly near Wheeling, WV having resigned the William F. Orr Professorship in New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2002. She earned the B.A. in English (First Honors) from Bethany College, and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. She has done post-doctoral work in New Testament at Harvard Divinity School; Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen, Germany; and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.

Bonnie has written or edited eighteen theological books and many articles, and taught at the university level for 30 years. She was ordained in 1984 and has served as co-pastor, pastor, or interim of five churches and twice in overseas ministries. She is an experienced spiritual director and retreat leader. Her poetry frequently appears in periodicals, and she has authored three volumes of verse. Bonnie is a widow, an avid reader, gardener and cook, enjoys classical music (especially the opera and liturgical music) and loves the West Virginia hills.