Though I have not had cancer or breast cancer for that matter, it probably would seem odd that a memoir about a cancer survivor would get to me that much, but it did. I may not have cried while reading the book, but Carol Dine’s Places in the Bone reaches into the soul of the reader and pulls at the heart strings and a number of other senses through poetry, journal entries, and prose.
This book is not only a journey through her cancer ordeal, but also through her familial struggles with her father and mother. The distance between her sister and herself as a result of these struggles and how she copes. I have one of her poetry books slated on my to read list, but this memoir gives the reader a clear perspective on how these struggles infuse her poetry with palpable imagery and insight. For example, “When the heel of my father’s hand/pounds my back,/I focus on the bedroom wall./I am walking beside the reservoir./ The oaks are giants/taller than him;/”
Her past relations with the likes of Anne Sexton and Stanley Kunitz also play a significant role in her ability to cope with the realities of her treatment and her growing frustration with the relationship she had with her father, mother, and sister. I admire Dine’s ability to connect words to express her frustration, her anguish, her hopelessness, and her resilience.
Dine teaches at Suffolk University, my alma mater, though I never had the pleasure of her company in the classroom. However, I will never forget her generosity in helping out a fellow poet, floundering when her mentor turned her down; she agreed to sponsor my poems for an emerging writers contest for Ploughshares. Even though I did not win the contest, her kindness inspired me to keep going.