Lisa Samia loves history. Reading the diary of Michael Dougherty of the 13th Pennsylvania Calvary, she was astonished at what the Civil War solider in a Confederate prison had written – the death surrounding him, with 50 men dying one day and 80 the next.
“I realized they had no names or faces, but they were someone’s father, uncle,” Samia said. “What of the unknowns?”
Samia reflected on the 620,000 casualties of the Civil War and the numerous people who lost their lives for the cause but that no one knows who they were or remembers them.
“The poetry discusses specific events but we don’t know the narrator,” she said. “There was so much valor and anonymity during that time. These voices stilled by death now have a place to tell their story,” Samia said of her book. “The lives of North and South are blurred in this collection because the suffering was universal.”
One of the poems in her new book, “The Third Floor,” shares the voice of an observer watching as Lincoln is carried from Ford’s Theater across the street into the Petersen House in Washington, D.C. shortly after being shot in the head. Lincoln would die the next day. Samia explained it’s not known if there was a person on a third floor of a nearby building observing the scene below, however, she creates this individual. In her poem the narrator makes it to the first floor receives a smile from the president. “He wanted to go and hold the president’s hand and say goodbye to the president he loved,” Samia said.
This is not the first time she has delved into this period in American history. In her book “My Name is John Singer,” she tells the fictional story of the man who is also known as John Wilkes Booth. Samia has traveled to many Civil War battlefields and researched the outcomes of different conflicts as well as some of the individuals involved. “It’s all consuming; once I am in that particular time period and am writing of that suffering, it’s almost you have to become these people to tell their story to the reader,” she said.
While working on her most recent book Samia said she was getting up early to write, and would continue during her lunch hour and spend several hours on it during nights and weekends. “This collection just means so much to me,” she said. “I’m bringing forth voices that have never been told.”
Samia has always had an interest in writing but said she never felt confident enough to write about it. As her 50th birthday approached, she decided to give it a try, penning her first book, “Don’t Be Afraid of Fifty.” This book was followed by “My Name is John Singer” and “The Man with the Ice Blue Eyes: Poems of Love and Heartache.”
“I’ve never looked back,” Samia said. “I can’t imagine not doing this.”
In the 2013-14 Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association Writing Contest she won second place for essay and an honorable mention for poetry. She also won a first place in poetry in 2014-15. Samia began her career working in commercial real estate management and today works in marketing real estate. Her writing has opened up avenues to share her interest in history and this spring Samia has several speaking and book signing engagements.
On May 5 she will hold a book signing, for “My Name is John Singer” in Fairfax, Virginia, and the following day she will be the guest speaker at the Poe House in Richmond, Virginia, where she will discuss Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” and its influence on her own poetry and work. This summer her article, “John Wilkes Booth, the Son, Brother, Uncle and Actor,” will be published in the Surratt House Museum newsletter.
She has also been named a finalist for the National Parks Arts Foundation Artist in Residence Program – Gettysburg Poetry 2018.
Samia grew up in Boston and is well versed in its American Revolutionary War history. She has lived in Avon for 23 years. “The Freedom Trail was in my backyard,” she said. “The Revolutionary War, John Adams were all part of my life growing up. Perhaps it influenced my love of history.” She was drawn to Civil War history, in part, she said, because she finds it so incredulous how the country could become so divided resulting in countrymen taking up arms against one another. “I always found it unbelievable we were fighting each other,” she said.