“Here’s the thing,” Richard Terrill writes. “There’s always the thing, isn’t there, and most often, not just one?” Terrill, an award-winning poet and memoirist, asks through this series of wide-ranging, funny, and sometimes gut-punchingly vulnerable essays, …what is essential At times self-effacing and funny, at times outspoken and provocative, Terrill fixes a clear eye on the contradictions in our present moment. “We’re at that point in a journey where you know where you’re going, but you don’t know where you are,” he writes. “The destination should come anytime now.”

If you’re lucky, you have an old uncle (or aunt) who is gruff and sweet, plain-spoken and wise, weathered and treasured. Richard Terrill comes across like one of those priceless people in his new book of essays, “Essentially.” Terrill writes out of what he calls his “dark attitude.” But he also sees the beauty in our daily lives, and, despite his pessimism about the future of humanity, believes it’s worth sticking around just to see what happens next. Like his worldview, his writing is jazzlike, nuanced, unexpected, arresting, and yes, essential.

Pam Miller, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The jazz trio mix of Richard Terrill’s estimable gifts—as musician, poet, and essayist—come together in the wide-ranging, harmonically complex essays of Essentially. Though Terrill confesses he likes to “keep my own company,” in these essays he cannot. With his pitch-perfect voice, his understated wisdom and humor, he keeps inviting us to move closer, to sit with him in all the essential places of our world and just listen.”

Rebecca McClanahan, Author of In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays


It’s hard to write a blurb about a book you love, because summary words on love are so hard to put, well, into words. This is a book I love. Because Richard Terrill has written about all the things that matter: music, yes, and yes; listening, and loss, and home, and play, and death, and the moon, the sun, fish, film, love. Life. And, for better and for worse, the glory in them all, the joy and beauty, but joy and beauty burnished with the recognition of time passing. This is a ruminative book, this is a funny book, this is a musical book, this is a heartbreaking book. This is a book I love.

Bret Lott, Author of Jewel and Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life.

ORDER from your local independent bookstore or from one of these Twin Cities booksellers

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“Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” WPVM. Richard Terrill joins host Sebastian Matthews for conversation about writing, music, and writing about music. They play the music of Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Lyle Mays, and the Larry McDonough Quartet.

Richard Terrill discusses Essentially at the Twin Cities Book Festival