Opera singer Gerda Christensen Fiske was born in 1916 to Danish immigrants, and raised in New York City. Her father, a poet and philosopher, and her mother, a suffragist, encouraged her interests in writing and the arts. Her beloved husband, writer and photographer A. Richard Fiske, also inspired Gerda, first in her career a professional opera singer, and then after his untimely death, as a poet, when she began to sing only “silent songs.”
These collected poems, many reminiscent of Emily Dickinson, span her reflections from 1960-1990, reading like letters to him and to herself. Her nostalgia and melancholy was privately expressed in her delicate, powerful poetry. She finds solace in the metaphors of nature, expressing her feelings of loss, her desire to love again, and her philosophically curious but unflinching moral vision for humanity.
Gerda and Richard had two children, Christina and Stephen, also vocalists and poets. After Gerda was widowed, she moved to San Francisco to be closer to them. A tireless and cheerful activist for half a century, Gerda was given numerous awards for her lifelong dedication to social justice through the Unitarian Church and the Democratic Party.
She wrote and publicly performed poetry into her early eighties, and lived to be ninety-two. Gerda gave this collection of original poems to her granddaughter, Ivory Madison, sixteen years before her death. In this volume, published by Ivory with an introduction that serves as a brief biography of the poet, the work is accompanied by numerous stunning photographs from her life, many taken by her husband, without whom there would be no poetry.
To see a video of Ivory talking about Silent Songs, click here.