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Field Work by Seamus Heaney

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Field Work by Seamus Heaney is a collection of poems that follow his removal from Belfast, Ireland, to the country south of Dublin in the County Wicklow.  It’s clear that even as his family has been away from the troubles in Northern Ireland, they are still foremost in his mind and poems.  Some of these poems are elegies to the friends and family he has lost along the way, but these poems are less focused on the political and more focused on his internal, emotional struggle with the issues in Ireland.  In “Oysters,” the narrator talks of himself as an estuary in which the oysters atop, and as he tastes the saltiness he recognizes that the oysters are “alive and violated.”  As the poem evolves, it is clear that the oysters are Ireland, split in two — ripped apart violently.  As the narrator eats, he recognizes that he must be deliberate in his actions or he will be forced into action, actions that could be reckless.

In “Casualty,” the narrator wants to supply a full picture of the Irish struggle — a man sits at a bar and continues to drink from the high shelf and he’s a “dole-breadwinner.”  But soon we see him through the eyes of the narrator, a man with a quick, observant eye.  His death is swift and among the other 12 in a Derry blast, in which “Everybody held/his breath and trembled.”  A man that questioned and raised concerns, simply swept away by a random decision to enter an bar that was not his usual.  How many times can we say we have deviated from our routines and how soon before we find ourselves the next casualty of a decision we had no idea was bad.

The downtrodden, the working class, and others are here between these pages.  “The gunwale’s lifting ear –/trusting the gift,/risking gift’s undertow–/is unmanned now//” (“In Memoriam Sean O’Riada”)  In a nod to Yeats, Heaney examines what the artist and musician means to him, but cautions that he is not the same as the fisherman that Yeats held in esteem.  There are several references and allusions to Yeats in this collection.

However, one of the best rendered sections may be the “Glanmore Sonnets” where Heaney turns his keen eye to the country around him.  Here he demonstrates his love for the people in the country and their welcoming nature, though his thoughts do turn to other times, especially during a “first night … in that hotel … ”

X

I dreamt we slept in a moss in Donegal
On turf banks under blankets, with our faces
Exposed all night in a wetting drizzle,
Pallid as the dripping sapling birches.
Lorenzo and Jessica in a cold climate.
Diarmuid and Grainne waiting to be found.
Darkly asperged and censed, we were laid out
Like breathing effigies on a raised ground.
And in that dream I dreamt -- how like you this? --
Our first night years ago in that hotel
When you came with your deliberate kiss
To raise us towards the lovely and painful
Covenants of flesh; our separateness;
The respite in our dewy dreaming faces.

There is a dream-like quality to many of these poems, as Heaney meditates on the past and the present issues facing Ireland. The narrator says in “High Summer,” “On the last day, when I was clearing up,/on a warm ledge I found a bag of maggots/and opened it. A black/and throbbing swarm came riddling out/life newsreel of a police force run amok,/sunspotting flies in gauzy meaty flight,/the barristers and black berets of light.//” It’s clear that the struggles are ever-present, even in the country, and there is no escaping their dark shadows even in Field Work by Seamus Heaney.

About the Poet:

Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet, writer and lecturer from County Derry, Ireland. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

352nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 352nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Ernest Christopher Dowson:

April Love

We have walked in Love's land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?

A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips forgot
How the shadows fall when day is done,
And when Love is not.

We have made no vows - there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoke,
We have wrought no ill.

So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile. 

What do you think?

NPMBlogTour2016

Ghost Sick by Emily Pohl-Weary

Source: Tightrope Books
Paperback, 150 pgs.
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Ghost Sick by Emily Pohl-Weary is a collection of poems that witness. They are testimony, commentary, and emotional responses to the crime, drugs, loss of innocence and more in a Toronto neighborhood and other places where lives are wasted and lost too easily. In “World of Sorrow,” the narrator says, “I had no way of comprehending/it only takes a second to tear/the spirit from a young body//” More often than not, young people believe they are invincible, and it is this naivete that leaves them especially vulnerable to waste, decay, and death. Pohl-Weary laments these losses, and she struggles to come to terms with those who have been lost and the potential they may have had under different circumstances.

Her images are playful, but then turn sinister, like in “Falling Angel,” where the narrator says, “Our honey gigolo, haloed, wary/Smiling at women, the boy who would kill//Carried disaster in the tilt of his chin/tightness of his shoulders, heavy droop of eyelids//”  What causes this young man to become a murder, and what does it mean for those around him.  Growing up in this neighborhood, the young must be forever watchful of how they are perceived by others and ensure that their actions cannot be the cause of another’s death or harm.  As the narrator in “Never Say Goodbye” indicates, “life is a process of hardening//” and it can even happen when you’re young and having a good time.

Nearly a third of the way through the volume, the poet asks, “How many candlelight vigils/will it take to light the sky/with grief?” (“The Gentle Giant”)  But in the same section, the narrator says in “Those Who Died,” “Remember that you live where they did not./You are the survivor and the advocate./You must live for those who died.//”  It is the pressure many surviving family members and friends place on themselves — to advocate for those who can no longer speak for themselves.  In many ways, these are the people who are “ghost sick” because they are the most haunted by those they have lost, and they are unable to escape that pressure.

Craft Supplies (pg. 51)

a wise woman once told me
you can't expect miracles
from dollar store markers
though they're often realized
in the most unusual, tawdry places
like the bottom of a bin

Readers will find that not all is dreary in Pohl-Weary’s world, as hope remains an eternal spring even in the darkest places. It can be held by a child with potential, a community that listens and acts, or even in the depths of a dream resurfacing for someone who has been lost. We, the living, are the ones that are haunting the dead with our emptiness at their leaving. We need to fill those holes and move on, so that they may do the same, as the narrator in “Meaning” suggests.

Ghost Sick by Emily Pohl-Weary is a profound collection that will have readers looking at their own losses to determine if they have filled those empty holes.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Award-winning author, editor, and creative writing instructor Emily Pohl-Weary has published seven books, a series of girl pirate comics, and her own literary magazine.

She was the 2015 writer-in-residence for Queen’s University, where she mentored students and facilitating a workshop for people affected by incarceration. She has also been the University of the Fraser Valley’s Kuldip Gill Writing Fellowship Writer in Residence in B.C., and the Toronto Public Library system’s eWriter-in-Residence for Young Voices. She was also fortunate to be Dawson City, Yukon’s writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House.

Her most recent book is a collection of poetry, Ghost Sick, which was released in February 2015. Her novel for teens, Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, was published by Penguin Razorbill (Canada) and Skyscape (U.S.A.) in fall 2013. Her five previous books include Strange Times at Western High, Girls Who Bite Back, A Girl Like Sugar, Iron-on Constellations, and Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril.

Emily is also a current creative writing instructor at the University of Dalhousie. For more than a decade she has also facilitated creative writing workshops that focus on advanced writing skills, learning tools for conflict-resolution and processing trauma, and finding your unique voice.

 

 

Interview with Arne Weingart

I reviewed Arne’s collection Levitation for Agnostics in February, and was really impressed by his poems. He agreed to take part in the National Poetry Month celebration with an interview. Please give him a warm welcome.

1. Faith is a big part of your poems. How has that faith informed the poems in the collection Levitation for Agnostics?

It was never my intention to use faith as an organizing principle for the collection. But if I look at the book as a whole, I can see how individual poems tend to circle around the question of what one can or should believe in. I accept the idea that the need for belief is biologically hard-wired into human nature, so for me, certain things follow. Firstly, that organized religion is useful but inadequate. Secondly, that poetry and art are useful (although ultimately also inadequate)in addressing our collective spiritual need. This particular point of view is a kind of background noise for every poem I try to write.

2. Faith and religion can be very serious aspects of people’s lives, how does the humor you infuse your poems with change that perspective?

The difference between our very real and persistent spiritual needs and our success in satisfying them is the perfect set-up for a joke. Many jokes. Take my faith tradition, please (drum roll, rim shot)! In Judaism’s classical orthodox flavor, there are said to be 613 commandments that govern human conduct. However noble in conception, this is an obvious recipe for failure. And while attempts at “reformation” are laudable and inevitable, the gap between spirit and material world remains. I suppose you could define grace as our ability to balance within that gap; and humor as our appropriate response when grace fails us.

3. Levitation for Agnostics looks to be a first collection for you? How else do you spend your creative hours? Is poetry your first passion?

Yes, this is my first collection. Although I work in a “creative” field — graphic design — poetry is the one thing I am most capable of doing that satisfies my creative impulse. As mentioned above, I believe that poetry (and all art) has spiritual underpinnings that make it indispensable, if often misunderstood.

4. What advice would you give to poets crafting their first collections?

Write without particular focus on shaping a collection. At some point, stop and see what you’ve got. This will require help from other readers (and perhaps writers). This is in direct contradiction to many thematically coherent collections that began and ended as “projects” and that seem to be “about” something that can be concisely and confidently stated. First collections, however, should probably address the concerns of crafting an identifiable poetic voice, the one indispensable qualification for a poet, going forward.

5. Who are your favorite poets?

In no particular order and on this particular day: W. H. Auden, Wislawa Szymborska, W. S. Merwin, Mark Strand, Elizabeth Bishop, Tony Hoagland

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, Arne Weingart lives in Chicago with his wife Karen, where he is the principal of a graphic design firm specializing in identity and wayfinding. Recent poems have been published in Arts & Letters, Beecher’s Magazine, Coal Hill Review, Enizagam, Nimrod, Oberon, Plume, RHINO, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Georgetown Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The Spoon River Poetry Review. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his book, “Levitation For Agnostics,” winner of the 2014 New American Press Poetry Prize, will be released in February, 2015.

NPMBlogTour2016

Mendeleev’s Mandala by Jessica Goodfellow

NPMBlogTour2016

Source: Mayapple Press
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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Mendeleev’s Mandala by Jessica Goodfellow is broken down into five sections, mixing in elements of mathematics, science, and various poetic styles.  Dmitri Mendeleev is considered the father of the periodic table, and like Mendeleev, Goodfellow carefully crafts each poem with a larger picture in mind, and in these poems, she strives to capture all the necessary elements for her own mandala to create a microcosm of her own struggles.

In part one, she lays down the foundation, uncovering hidden truths in a variety of stories from Iphigenia and Isaac to theories of gravity and continental drift. Each are treated similarly in that they are picked apart for their weaknesses, but also used to demonstrate the categorization and delineation that continues to occur now, as humans seek to understand the unknown.  Like in “Imagine No Apples,” the apples fall from the tree but never too far from the Omega, which in many ways is the end.  Even as we begin, we are never far from our ending, and the circle continues in a loop.  What would happen if there were no apples — no alpha, no beginning?  Would there be an omega?

“of what use is this thirst for things
resembling other things, this endless trying
to wring milk from a two-headed cow.” (pg. 26, “Burning Aunt Hisako”)

Humanity has a hard time reconciling reason with the unknown; and in many ways, we presume that because we reason that everything is knowable. This is not the case.  Section two of the collection is a rumination on time — time as it passes and our place in it.  It is the strongest part of the collection in terms of cohesion.  We want to be the candle flame, but we are more like the melting wax, the narrator notes in “In Praise of the Candle Clock.”  And as the narration continues regarding the development of the clock to its modern form, so too does its function and our perception of time.  Goodfellow has beautifully rendered this transformation from the shape-poem “Ode to the Hourglass” to “The Invention of the Clock Face.”  But most heart-wrenching is “Three Views of Mars” where perception is broken down by one who can see, one whose field of vision has narrowed considerably, and to one who is innocent and just beginning to see the world.

Mendeleev’s Mandala by Jessica Goodfellow is a look beyond the world of facts and science into the world of emotion, spirituality, faith, and more.  These poems remind us that even as we reason, we can view things completely wrong.  The mandala is larger than any one of us, but we all have roles to play, and we should do so to the best of our abilities, even if it all does seem rather random.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Jessica Goodfellow grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but has spent the last twenty years in California, Florida, and Japan. She received an MS degree from the California Institute of Technology and an MA in linguistics from the University of New England. Her first book of poetry, The Insomniac’s Weather Report (three candles press), won the Three Candles Press First Book Prize, and was reissued by Isobar Press in 2014. Her new book Mendeleev’s Mandala is available from Mayapple Press (2015). She is also the author of a poetry chapbook, A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland (Concerete Wolf, 2006), winner of the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition. Her work has appeared in the anthology Best New Poets 2006, on the website Verse Daily, and has been featured by Garrison Keillor on NPR”s “The Writer’s Almanac.” She was a recipient of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal, and her work has been honored with the Linda Julian Essay Award as well as the Sue Lile Inman Fiction Prize, both from the Emrys Foundation. Her work has appeared in Motionpoems Season 6. Jessica currently lives in Japan with her husband and sons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

351st Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 351st Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Walter Savage Landor:

Mother, I Cannot Mind my Wheel

Mother, I cannot mind my wheel;
         My fingers ache, my lips are dry:
Oh! if you felt the pain I feel!
         But Oh, who ever felt as I!

No longer could I doubt him true;
         All other men may use deceit:
He always said my eyes were blue,
         And often swore my lips were sweet.

What do you think?

NPMBlogTour2016

Happy Poetry Month! NPM 2016 Blog Tour!

Happy National Poetry Month!  We’re celebrating poetry all month in April.

As in the past, we’ve got a schedule of participating blogs, but feel free to hop on and join us any time this month.

April 1: Rhapsody in Books (What is Poetry and What Role Does It Perform?)
April 1: Life’s a Stage (Blackout Poetry)
April 1: Today’s Little Ditty (Profile of MARILYN SINGER and her books)
April 8: Life’s a Stage (Where Do You Find Inspiration?)
April 14: Fig and Thistle (Andrea Hollander event)
April 15: Tabatha Yeatts (Poetry Empowers Disabled)
April 15: Work-in-Progress (MFA Students’ Passion for Poetry)
April 16: Suko’s Notebook (poetry collection review)
April 18: Peeking Between the Pages (poetry collection review)
April 19: Necromancy Never Pays (poetry collection review)
April 21: I’m Lost in Books (poetry jumpstarting her creativity in high school)
April 21: Rhapsody in Books (Charlotte Bronte’s 200th Birthday)
April 22: Life’s a Stage (Book Spine Poetry)
April 24: Rhapsody in Books (Musings on Poetry)
April 25: Diary of an Eccentric (poetry collection review)
April 26: Savvy Verse & Wit (Visuals & Poetry Activity)
April 27: Savvy Verse & Wit (Book Spine Poetry Activity)
April 28: Savvy Verse & Wit (MadLibs Poetry Activity)
April 29: Savvy Verse & Wit (Cento Poetry Activity)

For those who have poetry showcased this month, feel free to add your full link in Mr. Linky and grab the tour button.

Above all, feel free to create your own blackout poetry, share poems you love, and comment on all the great posts.

***My new daily posts will be below this sticky one***

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

NPMBlogTour2016

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes, is a collection of poems that rely on imagery and play off the illustrations on the page to help the readers guess what animal or element of the meadow is being talked about.  These colors are gorgeous, and the shadowing in the pictures add depth to the pictures.  While these concepts are a little harder for younger kids, the book does offer some additional information about meadow animals and the life cycle, which can be used to teach younger kids about nature.

Sidman includes a number of poetic styles, and this could help teachers combine earth science and literature teachings, reinforcing concepts and making learning more fun with the riddles.  The poems are at times a little more cryptic than necessary, especially for concepts like xylem and phloem, but there are other poems that accompany just the right picture to help kids visualize what the words are trying to convey.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes, is well illustrated and very visual, which is great for younger readers.  The poetry is in riddle form, so that kids can catch on to word clues along with the visual queues to figure out what animal or element of the meadow is being discussed.  The book is aimed at older readers already past kindergarten, but my daughter did have fun trying to guess what animals were being talked about.

Rating: Tercet

About the Author:

Joyce Sidman lives in Wayzata, Minnesota, with her husband and dog, Watson. They have two sons, but they’ve grown up, so she set her mind to creating books.

Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun

Source: Borrowed from Diary of an Eccentric
eBook, 65 pgs
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Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Limericks! Yes, you read that correctly.  When Anna told me she had something I could read for 24-hour Read-a-Thon, I was all over this one.  I LOVE Limericks!

O’Leprechaun, which clearly has to be a pen name, captures the wit and tension between the characters so easily in just a Limerick.  It was highly appropriate that I read it for the read-a-thon and National Poetry Month.

From "Chapter Six":

Now Darcy has altered his drive.
What haunts him? A pair of dark eyes.
     The girl he rejected
     Now leaves him affected
Liz Bennet - he years for this prize.

From "Chapter Seven"

Jane Bennet, meantime, has caught cold,
Through a rain-soaked contrivance most bold.
     Now she must stick around
     At the Bingley compound,
Where Liz waits as the symptoms unfold.

The machinations of Mrs. Bennet to ensure that her daughters are married off before her husband dies, and her anger at Lizzy for turning down Mr. Collins also come off as ridiculous as Austen intended.  O’Leprechaun uses his skills well in these poems to flesh out the novel in poetic form.  Many of these poems will make readers laugh out loud, giggle, and shake their heads in amusement.

From "Chapter Fifteen"

But this Collins has come for a wife -
Either Lizzy or Jane will suffice.
     And as Jane is bespoke,
     Looks like Lizzy's up, folks,
To be wed by a blockhead - that's life.

Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun is just so much fun, and totally worth the short time spent reading it, reliving the best moments of Austen’s book. Also, it’s a great way to celebrate poetry.

Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is a curious exploration of figurative and literal transformations from adolescence into adulthood, and it examines the malleability of our identities.  Many poetry readers have witnessed the retelling of fairy tales, like that of Cinderella, but not many poems — if any — deal with Nancy Drew and her identity, particularly in “The Case of the Double Jinx” (pg. 6) and the doppelgänger.  Nancy is hot on the case and observing this imposter has her doubting herself and her value.  Even though she knows that this imposter is not like her, she still fears she could lose Ned and her edge.

Reddy explores standing on the outside and the envy that can engender in “Understudy” (pg 10).  “You’re the other//woman, stranded just offstage,/mouthing the words you’ve learned/by heart.  At dress rehearsal you were costumed/as your better self.  Now she’s the critics’ darling and you’re//a cast-off prop,” the narrator says.  This persona takes on more and more of the starlight’s mannerisms, make-up rituals, and more until she mirrors that star in the hope that by becoming other than herself, she will be seen.

As the collection progresses, the poems seem to take on a less literary and artsy subject matter to look at the average person’s identity and how that changes over time.  “Big Valley’s Last Surviving Beauty Queen” (pg. 18) explores the effects of aging on a former beauty queen and how that effects her own perception of herself.  The accolades she sees and experiences are false to her when she returns home.

Genealogy (pg. 39)

My father's father was a woodstove.  He snapped and
  roared.

He crackled in the basement.  They fed him
so they wouldn't freeze.

While these perceptions of identity are explored again and again in a number of contexts, Reddy also explores the perceptions of men. But these perceptions of men also can affect how women identify themselves.  There are a number of these poems, which explore violence and addiction.  Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is fascinating and multi-layered in its examination of identity and perception, particularly among young women and adult women.

About the Poet:

Nancy Reddy’s poetry has been published in 32 PoemsTupelo Quarterly, and Best New Poets of 2011(selected by D.A. Powell), with poems forthcoming in Post Road and New Poetry from the Midwest. She lives in Madison, where she is a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight with charcoal drawings from Terrence Tasker

Source: Altaire Productions & Publications & TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight, with charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker that resemble the one on the cover (who may be is Antigone), is unique in that it is inspired by the Sophocles play but that it is not explicit in its references.  Antigone is the third in the Theban plays written by Sophocles and she was a very stubborn character who fought for her familial duties.  She is not only stubborn but very passionate about her beliefs.  The Antigone we meet in these poems is very passionate and very torn, but there also is an underlying darkness to her actions.  Slaight brings out her inner fears of death, which she believes is imminent even as she continues to defy the authorities and the gods with her actions out of duty.

Slaight employs some fantastic imagery, like “If this perfume doesn’t burst/It will twist into venom.” (pg XVII) and “Silence and decline/And a veil of grey descending.” (pg. LXXIII)  Coupled with the stunning charcoal drawings from Tasker, which remind me of the Greek masks worn when the old plays were acted out, the collection evokes deep sadness, turmoil and concern.  One of my favorite images is a side profile in which just the face is shadowed on a cream background and the hair is left without definition.  There is a fierceness in the woman’s brow and chin, but sadness can be found in her down-turned mouth.

From pg. LVII

Carver
Twist
You mark
In flesh.

Sculptor

Smash
This stone
In death.

Your anguish sought this blackened veil.
Your anger wrought this iron hell.

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight, with charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, is a fascinating collection of passionate and terrifying poems depicting the inner turmoil of Antigone, who fought for what was morally right and what she thought of as her duty to her brother.  She gives up everything with her battle to bury her shamed brother, including her betrothal to the prince of Thebes.  Slaight has a deft poetic hand when it comes to this tortured and head-strong character.  Her poems are cryptic, but infused with strong emotion.  Some surface background on the character of Antigone may be needed to fully grasp these poems, but on the surface, they could be spoken by any such woman or man.

About the Poet:

MARIE SLAIGHT (1954-) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Kindred and Whoever Was Using This Bed.

About the Illustrator:

TERRENCE TASKER (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Raised in rural western Canada, he went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts in downtown Montreal. He worked as a set builder as well as working in construction, mining, finance, industrial installations, taxi driving and film projectionist. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto.

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Interview with Luanne Castle, Author of Doll God

Although today is technically the end of National Poetry Month, my poetry reviews for #NPM15 will continue into May because I read way more books than I thought for the month, thanks to the Dewey 24-hour read-a-thon!

To wrap up this year’s National Poetry Month tour, I’ve got a great interview with Luanne Castle, author of Doll God (my review).

“This emotional collection will take a toll on its readers, but the journey will leave them changed in terms of perspective and renewed in that they will want to live more fully and enjoy each moment in the moment.” — Savvy Verse & Wit

Please give her a warm welcome.

1.  Re-examining our childhood and our pasts is something that echoes throughout your collection, Doll God, and there is a deep sense of anxiety and loss tied to those reflections.  When did you first start examining your own childhood and past and how does anxiety and loss tie into that self-examination?

My childhood has always loomed over me, both for its anxieties and its imaginative qualities.  I also write and have published prose based on my childhood experiences. When I was a little girl my father built a bomb shelter in our basement. We were in the middle of the Cold War, and there was fear and tension in our lives because we thought “The Bomb” could drop at any moment.  So childhood has always crept into my poetry, although I didn’t start to examine it with purpose until about 6 or 7 years ago, which is when I began to spend more time writing.

2.  Dolls are prevalent throughout the collection.  Do you think dolls still play a pivotal role in young girl’s lives? And how do you think their role has changes with the evolution of technology?

Dolls are still important to society–and to many young girls. When I was a kid not all girls preferred dolls to other toys, and that is still true. Even I had as much fun with my cement mixer and “army men” as I did with my dolls at certain periods in my life. Actually, army men are really dolls, now that I think about it! But dolls have stayed close to the essence of my childhood. Boys also were given dolls when I was a kid. We were probably the first generation where boys like my brother were given G.I. Joe dolls. My brother had Chatty Cathy’s baby brother with a sweater and cap knitted by my grandmother. Since then, so many different dolls and doll-like figurines have been created for both boys and girls.

Technology has slightly altered the doll-scape in two ways. We have many “throwaway dolls.” By that I mean that the discretionary income and low-cost overseas production has created an abundance of dolls found on the shelves of Target, Wal-Mart, and Toys R Us. Dolls are often $5-10 birthday presents for girls. Too many Barbies? Lose one at the grocery store, pull off the head of another. For many fortunate children, there will always be another Barbie. The other way technology has affected the doll industry is that dolls are produced to capitalize on the popularity of movies, television shows, and computer games. While this trend started 100 years ago, it has grown as technology has grown. Now a huge portion of dolls at the major store chains are related to these technologies.

3.  How much of your poetry is autobiographical?  How far does it stray from your own life?  In other words, where is the line between fact and fiction?

Sometimes a poem starts out autobiographical and strays into the fictional without me even realizing it. Other times a poem might begin as fiction, but by the time it’s completed, it has incorporated a lot of elements from my own life experiences.  A reader would be hard pressed to find the “line” between the two in my work. And I think that is as it should be–to read poetry as confessional is dangerous and limits the reader, the poem, and the poet.

4.  Do you still collect dolls?  How many are or were in your collection?

I didn’t begin an actual doll collection until my daughter grew out of her dolls. When she was no longer interested in them, I became fascinated and still have all of hers. As a child I had baby dolls, but that was because once I was given a doll I didn’t lose it or abuse it, so over time I had a fair number. But never a collection. We didn’t have the money for that. I didn’t  even own a real Barbie. My Barbie was a Miss Suzette by Uneeda. But I did have a Ken doll and a beautiful toddler-sized walking doll who may or may not have ended up in Doll God. My husband and I love antiquing and in the past ten years I’ve accumulated quite a few dolls. I have a decent collection of Asian dolls, including Japanese hakatas. I also collect Magic Attic Club, Madame Alexander, cowboy and cowgirl, Red Riding Hood, literary, and Broadway musicals.

5.  Writing is a solitary endeavor for many authors.  How do you maintain contact with the outside, and how does that differ from the experience of reading your work aloud for an audience?

I maintain contact by connecting with my writing peeps, both in person and through email and phone calls. Then blogging and social media are other ways I feel a part of the outside world. These are important for social reasons, but also for educational purposes. I learn a lot from my fellow writers.

I am not fond of being in large groups of people, but I do enjoy the act of reading my poetry, which is a performative experience. I recently was interviewed on a morning television show and was asked to read one of my poems. That was fun. I have also been known to read to rescue kitties at the shelter once a week. In the past I’ve read my poetry at various events, but since Doll God was published, I haven’t been able to read publicly. I hope to change that in the near future.

6.  Doll God is your first collection.  How long have you been writing poetry, and how long did it take you to create your first collection?  Are you planning a second?

I first wrote poetry when I was in about 5th grade. My first poem rhymed and was about an old woman in a rocking chair. Chair is a good rhyming word.  I took up writing poetry again in high school and wrote very melancholy poems. I turned in a poem for an English class assignment and received a B+ on it–my lowest English grade. That’s when I decided that teachers shouldn’t really be putting letter grades on students’ creative writing attempts. I have a whole philosophy about the teaching of poetry.

When I started college I was encouraged to look ahead to getting a job, so I set poetry aside until my husband and I adopted our first child from Korea. I wrote a poem about picking him up at the airport and the floodgates opened. Soon after, I applied to the MFA in creative writing program at our local university and began studying writing in earnest.

My current project involves “genealogy poems” based on research I’ve done on female ancestors. I’d like to create a chapbook from these poems.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Serena. I loved that Doll God could be part of your book tour.  These questions were great fun and really made me think in ways I haven’t before.