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.

Mailbox Monday #165

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Metro Reader.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1. Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter, which I purchased.

2. The Receptionist by Janet Groth, which came unrequested from Algonquin.

3. A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez, which came unrequested from Algonquin.

4. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear, which I receive from Harper.

5. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear, which I received from Harper for a TLC Book Tour.

6. Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White, which I received from the poet.

7. Real Courage by Michael Meyerhofer, which came from the poet.

8. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, which I bought at Novel Places for the WWI Read-a-Long this year.

9. Harlem’s Hell Fighters by Stephen L. Harris, which I bought at Novel Places.

10. Star Wars & Philosophy by Kevin Decker and Jason Eberl, which I bought at Novel Places for Book Club in March.

11. City of Thieves by David Benioff, which I bought at Novel Places for Book Club in May.

What did you receive?

An Interview With Poet Kathleen Winter

Poet Kathleen Winter

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Kathleen Winter was posted. She’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since we share a love of trees and dogs.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I love living in the country, being outdoors. After growing up in Texas, I shipped out to Massachusetts after college, then to California and lately to Arizona to get an MFA at Arizona State University. My favorite job ever was night-shift in a Brookline bookstore, working with lots of other writers. I love the Pacific. I’m not religious; yoga is about as spiritual as I get. I’ve worked as a baker, tech editor, lawyer and writing teacher. I’m a sloooow reader. The last time I had a TV was in 1989–can’t take that stuff. Also, I’m looking for a teaching job! Within two hours drive of Glen Ellen, California.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I’m a junkie for school, so I’ve loved being in an MFA program, and all the workshops, classes, readings, conversations that involves. Before going back to school I was in several workshops with poets in Sonoma County, Calif.,  and at Esalen Institute at Big Sur. Those experiences helped keep poetry at the forefront while I was working as a lawyer.

The essays in Stephen Dobyns‘ collection “Best Words Best Order” and Jane Hirshfield’s “Nine Gates” have helped me to better understand what I want to accomplish technically, and how to go after it. Maybe more importantly, I find that reading good non-fiction can inspire me to immediately want to write. Donald Hall’s anthology of essays by poets, “Claims for Poetry” is useful but frustrating, because Hall includes far too few women poets and far too few poets of color.

In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

Many more writers now. ! Halleluja !

Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

Now, while I’m finishing up the last semester of the MFA program in Tempe, I write in a rented room in a house that’s two states to the east of the house in California where my partner and dog live. So the ideal writing space is back in Glen Ellen with Finnegan lounging next to me in the ratty dog bed. My desk right now is two filing cabinets with a board across them; I’m looking at drywall. Back home I often write in bed, and look out through the windows at douglas firs, toyon, and madrone trees.

She also included a poem for readers to check out:

Wrong Sonnet:  Multiplicity

My husband asks Why don’t you write a poem
about why you like Virginia Woolf when
nobody else does.
The excruciating detail of a marriage
is what I like, I say, the drifting
in and out of Clarissa’s mind and into Peter’s,
how they notice the flow of London traffic
as a living animal, how they feel
themselves distributed in sub-atomic
bits into each other and over the city’s squares
and towers, out into the hedgerows, the waves.
But Clarissa wasn’t married to Peter
he would say, if he’d read it, she was
married to Richard. And I’d say
maybe she was, maybe she was.

–Previously published in The New Republic.

About the Poet:

Kathleen Winter has published poems in Tin House, Barrow Street, The Cincinnati Review, Anti-, The New Republic, Field, and other journals.  In 2010, the City of Phoenix selected her poetry for its 7th Avenue Streetscape Public Art Project, and she received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Virginia G. Piper Center.  Her chapbook Invisible Pictures was published in 2008.  Kathleen is poetry co-editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review.  She attends the MFA program at Arizona State University.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.