Madison resident and businessman Jim Grant has published a book of poetry that celebrates Madison’s heritage. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Madison resident and businessman Jim Grant has published a book of poetry that celebrates Madison’s heritage. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Jim Grant is giving Madison residents one more reason to cheer about their hometown.

Madison's Bicentennial celebration's history and hoopla in 2009 inspired Grant, owner of the Madison Fudge Factory and Guest Suites, to write a book of poetry about the river town that the Illinois native and former longtime California resident has called home for the last 11 years.

In his book, "Madison, Indiana: A peace of History," published by Tate Publishing & Enterprises LLC, Grant uses his picturesque rhythm and rhyme to visualize landmarks and landscapes. His 50-plus poems explore the richness of the community's deep faith and friendships, diversity, strength and perseverance that have shaped Madison's heritage.

"I felt the book was timely," said Grant, adding that he wanted it to be a measurement in time he could relate to from miles away - "to celebrate a milestone for, from and about Madison. I wanted to make a presentation to Madison as a way of giving back for the rich history and friendships I have found here."

And to represent the peace that Madison has provided for many of its visitors.

"I explain to visitors how they should enjoy our quaint town, and 'take the needle off their record' for a day or two, or three. And when they return home, they can lower that needle and life will pick right back up where it was."

Grant's book-signing will take place at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 East Main St. It is tentatively scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 14.

"Much of my inspiration comes from Charles Dickens," Grant said. "Madison has always reminded me of the lifestyle, buildings, characters and history from Dickens, writing about how life might have been, picturing lifestyles of people in their yards and inside their homes."

The visions parallel Grant's childhood home of LaSalle-Peru, Ill., a scenic town on the Illinois River with a state park much like Clifty Falls.

"The similar surroundings drew me to Madison," said Grant, 62, who began writing poetry at age 6 and who has four other yet-to-be-published books on other topics.

As a young boy, he learned early about the power of the river, watching paddlewheelers like the Queen go downstream.

"I sat on our front porch on Monks Street and listened to Mark Twain stories. LaSalle was at the end of the Canal System that started in the northeast. I could visualize the tow paths and rowboat mules that pulled flat-bottomed boats back in the 1800s."

Moving products along the river and the expansion of America - first by boat, then by rail - intrigued Grant.

Also inspiring his poems were Madison residents with lives steeped in rich history like Ann Windle, who, along with husband John, founded Historic Madison Inc. to preserve the city's architectural heritage.

"I would stop by and visit Mrs. Windle, who was always eager to invite friends in for a drink," he said. "Albert Einstein and Carl Sandburg were her friends. She actually did proofreading for Sandburg. And when I would shake her hand, I would be thinking: This is the hand that shook the hands of Albert Einstein and Carl Sandburg."

Local dentist and community activist Bob Canida said: "Jim captures the rhythm and heart of Madison's core, soul and spirit of the present and of times past. He certainly presents a wonderful poetic depiction of life in our marvelous city of Madison. He reminds me once again what a blessing and pleasure it is to live in this great place."

Among those to whom Grant has dedicated his book are his children, David and Michelle, who were only 2 and 4 when Grant first made Madison his home for two years in the early '80s.

The book's center features 31 pages of colorful artwork by local artists Bill Borden, Carolyn Lopez, Kevin Carlson, Lou Knoble, Rick Bennett, Robert H. Saueressig, Theresa Strohl, and Stephen and Karen Taylor.

Grant has also included a few old family recipes, like his Grandma Ehrenstrom's Swedish breakfast pie.

Reflecting on one of his favorite poems, "Stronger Madison," (below) he likened Madison's historic buildings to its residents and the challenges they face.

"A tragic night, a twisted sight -

A structure wall fell down.

Aging brick, with mortar thick,

Olde buildings fill our towne.

A shift and a lift of a corner,

And a crack began to grow.

Wailing wind and pounding rain,

And tons of heavy snow.

Though time has been a savior

When the storms of life divert;

Some can be fixed and some go away

Some patches can cover the hurt.

Like buildings, our lives take a soakin'

From damaging hurts, pain and pokin';

Some people break from an achin' mistake;

Others get strong where they're broken."

"Madison's buildings represent that 'strength in age' we find in ourselves," Grant said. "I pray that my poems may bless you (the reader) in thought and memory, as they have for me."

Soft-cover copies of Grant's book will be available for purchase at the Village Lights Bookstore and the bookstores at Hanover College and Ivy Tech Community College; gift shops at Clifty Inn, King's Daughters' Hospital and the Lanier Mansion; and at the Madison Fudge Factory where hardback copies will also be sold. Soft-cover copies are $12.99. Included with each book is a free audio download of the poetry read by Grant, produced by Scott Murray Bate.