Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter

Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter, whom I interviewed for 32 Poems in 2011, is a piece of art that should be hung on the wall.  And like all art, there are references to other artists and art types within her poems, but there is more here — the art of being human.  In the first three sections, Winter carefully tailors each poem to touch on the connections we have to our animal selves, from the mischievous prankster in Eve who entices the snake to eat Adam in the Garden of Eden merely because she is bored in “Escape from Eden” to razor sharp focus of a hawk eying its prey in “Edge of February.”

There is a telling epigraph from Virginia Woolf, “I do not believe in separation.  We are not single.” that establishes the direction of Winter’s work as a look at us being separate as well as connected.  However, the collection is not only about being separate and being connected, it is about “being naked” and reveling in the “silos of time” we create (“Nostalgia for the Criminal Past,” page 9).  There is the past of our relatives and how it reverberates through the younger generations’ lives and how the past they share may be incomplete or slightly altered from reality, like in “Jellyfish Elvis.”  The narrator even questions the validity of the past whether told by others or lived, which calls into question whether the past should be revered or remembered and that we should merely live in the moment.

Winter shows a maturity in her imagery and line break selection that breaks boundaries and draws comparisons to the impressionists and abstract painters who defied artistic convention in their paintings.  From ” Hamster Thrown From Monster Truck,” “rumbling above us at the stoplight/like a frisky two-story building.,” and like “The eight a.m. sun moved out from clouds/like a well-trained MBA/adjusting to changed conditions./” in “Snapshot of a Boxer.”  Beyond the animal references, memories, and looks into the past, Winter uses water imagery in traditional ways to show reflections of what we want to see and what we desire, but provides readers with the punch in the gut when they realize the folly of those dreams, like in “Country Club Fourth of July.”

And despite the theme of appearance versus reality, there are other moments in the collection where the narrator will sink beneath the surface of the water in a tub to find an inner peace, like in “The Bath” and “Bathing at the Museum”:  “Like Bonnard’s wife/incessantly I bathe, sensations of liquid/intervening between mind//& body, blurring animosities./In dim flux the mind begins to lift,/words shimmer,//” (page 64).

The cover photo for this collection is reflective of its contents as the young girl looks circumspect about everything she is seeing out of that window, assessing it carefully, but wary of it at the same time.

The final section of the collection is a breaking out from the bonds of the past, and the passion that consumes those poems burns and takes action.  However, these poems also are reflective and playful, like “Wrong Sonnet: Mystery” where the narrator speaks to ghosts in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter is another for the best of lists from theme, quality of the poems, and the imagery that illustrates the world in new ways.

About the Poet:

Kathleen Winter’s poems are forthcoming in Anti- and recently have appeared in Field, The New Republic, Verse Daily, 32 Poems and The Cincinnati Review. Her chapbook Invisible Pictures was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. Kathleen received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Piper Center at Arizona State University. She is an MFA student and composition teacher at ASU.

Check out today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop from Unputdownables.

This is my 31st book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is the 13th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.


  1. Anna’s right. You do keep finding some wonderful collections. I have to give you so much credit for everything you’ve done this month to promote poetry. You are a wonderful advocate!

  2. You keep finding all these great collections that you know I’m going to have to borrow. 😉