Tag Archives: Poet

Poetry Ancestry

Last week I went to see three grande dames of literature at Arizona State University: Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, and Sandra Cisneros, hosted by Natalie Diaz. These are writers whose works I taught to college students for years, but this was the first opportunity I had to hear them talk in person. They were seated on stage in a conversation area–a couch and armchairs. What I hadn’t realized was that they are all graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has long been considered to be the top place to earn an MFA in writing. These women all know each other–and Harjo and Cisneros were friends in grad school. I felt I was eavesdropping on their conversation with each other.

Since these women are all poets, but have published prose as well, I was fascinated to hear what they had to say. Their voices come from disenfranchised groups–Harjo is Native (Muskogee Creek), Cisneros Chicana, and Dove African American–so it’s important to listen carefully and sympathetically in order to hear things from a variety of perspectives. They were also talking about timing, and how timing was very helpful to them in achieving the level of success they have had. You can look them up if you want the deets. In fact, Dove mentioned that when she was a grad student she didn’t know the work of a lot of poets who were mentioned in her classes. She would surreptitiously write down the names so she could find them in the library and read their work. In that way, she was partially self-taught.

I’m leading up to something here.

Of all the wonderful ancedotes and tips I heard that Saturday afternoon, the one that stood out the most to me is one from Harjo. She said she teaches a course about poetry ancestry. It’s studying the genealogy of your poetry writing. You look at the poets who most influenced your own writing. Then you see who influenced them. And go back as far as you can, studying the work that turns up in your research!

I wanted to see where I could go with this, but it will take time. I’ll just start by mentioning some of my poetic influences. Keep in mind this is NOT an exhaustive list by any means.

  • Sylvia Plath: there is no doubt that I found her big mouth and aggressive imagery very liberating
  • Emily Dickinson: her spare and sometimes wry writing appeals to me, but the downside is she keeps herself out of most of her poems, and that is too convenient for me
  • A. R. Ammons: I so admire his oneness with nature and spirit and his very smart use of language
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins: his spirituality and fresh imagery speak to my heart
  • Linda Hogan: like Ammons, her oneness with nature and spirit inspires me
  • Adrienne Rich: she broke the ice at the top of the ocean she dove into in Diving into the Wreck
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay: maybe the first poem not written for children that captivated me was Millay’s “Renascence.” When I was a kid, I took an LP record out of the library and listened to her read it over and over and over and over and over again.
  • classic children’s poetry of the 20th century, as well as nursery rhymes: these are what first instilled a love for poetry

Do you notice anything about my little list? Lots of women, not too much diversity (except Hogan who is Native and Rich, a Jewish lesbian). But what else? The poems I read that first inspired my writing were written mainly before 1980 all the way back to Dickinson who was writing before and during the Civil War! Of course, I’ve read a lot of contemporary poetry over the years, but poets who first influenced me were not my contemporaries or even those just a little ahead of me. They were considered masters when I read them, except for maybe Hogan.

I’m thinking I need another list of poets whose works next influenced me–people writing after the poets listed above. That might then offer more of a platform for the “family research.”

Do you know who your first influences were for your own writing? Have the type of influences changed over time? For instance, if blogging is your main writing format, who were your first influences?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Kin Types by Luanne Castle

Love this review of Kin Types by poet and writer Jen Payne.

In case you’re getting tired of seeing the same book cover (haha), here’s a portrait of my great-grandmother Cora who is in the book more than once.

It is no surprise that for the three nights since reading Kin Types, I have had vivid dreams of my own family. It is no surprise because Luanne Castle’s thought-full book presents the concept of family in such a palpable manner, one feels as if you have sat across the table from an aunt, a grandmother, a cousin, and heard family stories that could very well be your own.

Layered with poems and prose, you turn a page to reveal the next colorful character, the faded memory, the texture of a detail only a poet would think to include. The result is a beautiful collage of the family experience — its loves and losses, its joys and sorrows, its tragedies and secrets.

How clever of Castle to include the modern-day theory of behavioral epigenetics, essentially we are that collage, we are the stories, they are in our DNA. It…

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New Info After the Book is Published

When I was visiting my mother for her heart surgery, I found an amazing tintype that changed the way I think about the cover of Kin Types.

You may or may not realize I write a blog called thefamilykalamazoo.com sharing antique and vintage family photos and the results of some of my family history research. I published an account over on that blog, but I’ve pasted the body here so you can feel some of my excitement 😉 over this new discovery.

FROM THE FAMILY KALAMAZOO:

Thank you so much for responding so enthusiastically to Kin Types. My new chapbook is an offshoot of The Family Kalamazoo, in a way.

The cover of the book is from an old tintype belonging to my family. I have posted it twice before on this blog. The woman featured on it seems to have come from the Remine branch of the family and, based on the tintype and the dress she wears, I thought it was possible that she could be my great-great-great grandmother Johanna Remine DeKorn. This was a guess I had fairly early on, but I had no proof.

But I knew she was someone close to us. For one thing, this is an expensive painted tintype and our family owns it. We wouldn’t have possession of such an image if it wasn’t someone from the family. For another, there is too great a similarity. For instance, my daughter thinks that the woman looks remarkably like my mother in the eyes and mouth. Other people say they can see her in my face.

I thought it unlikely I would learn much more about the photo, but never gave up hope because much amazing information has flowed to me, mainly through this blog.

When I visited my mother recently, she gave me a gorgeous antique photo album from my uncle for me to scan and disseminate. Imagine my surprise when I opened the album and found this tiny tintype inside.

 

I had so many questions: Were the photos taken at the same time or is the woman younger in the couple’s photo? Same hairdo, same earrings . . . . We don’t really know about the dress and its neck accessory because the lace collar on the painted tintype is, just that, painted on. But she’s definitely younger. Is the new find a wedding photo? Are they siblings?

So I focused on the man. I want to say boy. They both look so young. If the woman is Johanna Remine DeKorn, the man most likely would have to be Boudewyn (Boudewijn) DeKorn. Here is a photo my grandfather identified as Boudewyn, my 3xgreat grandfather.

Boudewijn de Korne

So, what do you think? Are they two different men? The hair is the same–very wavy dark brown hair–, but the hairline has changed. That’s possible. In the upper photo, the man has very defined cheekbones, and I don’t see this in the boy. The man has a very wide mouth. Would that change over time? I doubt it. It was unlikely then that the woman was Johanna, but who was she?

I did what I had to do. I scheduled an appointment with photogenealogist Maureen Taylor. When I only had the painted tintype, I didn’t feel I had enough to go through the process with Maureen. But now that I had a second tintype, I wanted to give it a try.

When Maureen and I began our conversation, I felt a letdown. Johanna Remine was too old to be in this photo. The tintype of the two people had to be between 1869 and 1875, according to Maureen. Johanna was born in 1817 and DIED in 1864. The woman could not be Johanna.

The woman had to be a generation younger than Johanna.

This was disappointing because I felt that I know the other branches or “lines” of the family, and that if she wasn’t Johanna, she couldn’t be a direct ancestor.

And yet, as I told Maureen, I had a strong feeling that she was closely related. And her looks are too reminiscent of the family features to discount her. Maureen agreed with this and pointed me in a different direction.

The Remine family, where I felt the painted tintype came from, began in the U.S. with a marriage between Richard Remine and Mary Paak. Mary Paak is my great-great-grandmother Alice Paak DeKorn’s sister. I am related to the Remines two ways. One is by blood, Johanna Remine being my 3x great grandmother, married to Boudewyn DeKorn (and the mother of Richard DeKorn). The other is by marriage where Richard married Mary. Mary and Carrie Paak, two of the four Paak sisters, had a similar look. Alice and Annie had a different look altogether.

ALICE PAAK DEKORN

Maureen wanted to see a photo of Alice. I sent her the image above–a very clear headshot of Alice from the 1890s (so 20 years older than the woman in the tintype) and Annie (the sister who looked like Alice but is a body shot and not as clear). Maureen examined the photos and proclaimed Alice a match. She asked for the dates on the sisters: birth, immigration, marriage. She was sure the tintype of the beautiful girl on the cover of Kin Types was Alice who happens to be featured in a poem in my book: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete.”

I asked Maureen about the man in the photo and said it did not look like Alice’s husband, Richard DeKorn.

And then I learned something that is counterintuitive, but smart.

Ignore him for now.

She thought it could be her brother or even a beau she had in the Netherlands that she never married. In the tintype of both of them, they are very very young, maybe teenagers. And Alice immigrated to the United States when she was 17 years old. Maureen told me to ignore the man for the purposes of identifying the woman. I will try to identify him later, if it is even possible.

The more I thought about Maureen’s assessment, the more I realized how blind I’d been not to notice the resemblance between the women in the tintype and my 2xgreat grandmother Alice. Alice also happens to be the mother of Cora, the woman my grandparents told me that I look like.

Just for fun, I ran the two images through twinsornot.net. This is the result, although they photos are of a very young woman and a woman twenty years older.

Then I pulled out the other photo that Grandpa had identified Alice. In this alternative photo, Alice is younger than in the 1890s photo, but not nearly as young as the tintype. I had never been sure that this photo even was Alice, although Grandpa had been (and she was his grandmother). So I ran both Grandpa-identified Alice photos against each other on the site. 100% match! Grandpa was right.

Next I ran the tinted tintype against this alternative photo of Alice.

100%!

 

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED. THE WOMAN ON THE COVER OF KIN TYPES IS MOST LIKELY ALICE PAAK DEKORN.

I learned a lot of lessons through this process, but one that really stands out in my mind is that people look different in different photographs–and when you are comparing people of different ages, it really gets dicey. I think about photos of me . . .

If you click the Amazon link , the book can be ordered for $14.99. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

If you like what you read, please leave a little review at one or more of the following sites:

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Doll God by Luanne Castle

A big thank you to Sally Cronin for putting DOLL GOD on the shelf at Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore! It’s in great company, and I’m thrilled to be one of Sally’s authors!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the first of the New on the Shelves posts this week and today it is poet Luanne Castle and her debut collection, award winning Doll God that explores the emotion that we invest in inanimate objects, some of which have been created in our own image.

About Doll God

Winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Doll God, studies traces of the spirit world in human-made and natural objects–a Japanese doll, a Palo Verde tree, a hummingbird. Her exploration leads the reader between the twin poles of nature and creations of the imagination in dolls, myth, and art.

“Every day the world subtracts from itself,” Luanne Castle observes. Her wonderfully titled collection, Doll God, with its rich and varied mix of poems part memoir, part myth and tale, shimmers as it swims as poetry is meant to, upstream against the loss.
Stuart Dybek, MacArthur Fellow and author…

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What in the World is a Chapbook?

Sometimes we get so used to the jargon of the field we’re in that we forget it’s a specialized language. And that others don’t always  know what in the heck we’re talking about when we use it.

I was thinking the other day that when I say that I wonder if Perry is a feral cat or a stray cat that the nuance between those two types of cats could be lost. A feral cat is so wild that he is not used to humans or civilization and oftentimes cannot be persuaded that we are ok. Unless quite young when the socialization begins, it might not be possible to ever get a feral cat to accept human touch. But I say that with a caveat: every cat must be treated as an individual because you just never know which feral cats can be socialized and which socialized cats will never be lapcats–based on temperament, environment, and so on.

Speaking of Perry, I have been reading him Cindy Rinne’s story in verse Quiet Lantern about a Vietnamese girl named Mai Ly who is on a spiritual quest. The farther I go into the story and the more poetic prowess I discover, the more impressed I am with the book.

Another word I’ve flung around the blog lately is chapbook. Kin Types is a chapbook, rather than a full-length poetry collection like Doll God or like Rinne’s book (which is over 100 pages). But what is a chapbook? Historically, a chapbook was a small pamphlet that was truly around before books as we know them today were invented. The first written fairy tales were chapbooks. They were small. They were a few pages. And they were really roughly printed.

Chapbooks today, though, usually meet these qualifications:

  • Generally poetry, but not always
  • Less than 48 pages in length, generally around 25-30, but even as short as 15 pages (full-length collection is around 55-75)
  • Generally has a sharper focus than a full-length collection
  • Some of the most famous poems were first published in chapbooks–poems by T.S. Eliot, William Blake, Philip Larkin, and Allen Ginsberg
  • Poems can be used in a full-length collection later (or not)
  • There are many chapbook contests and small presses publishing chapbooks
  • There is only one after-publication prize open to chapbooks in the U.S., whereas there are many for full-length books
  • Poets are encouraged to publish chapbooks, as well as full-length books, and many poets first publish a chapbook rather than a book
  • Sometimes the binding is more beautiful than that of a book
  • Sometimes the artistic quality of the binding is poor and the pages look typewritten
  • Sometimes the book is stapled or bound by cord
  • Although modestly expensive, chapbooks are not meant to make money (yup, that’s a fact and probably true of all)
  • Chapbooks are a way to take a risk and strive for art for art’s sake

I did enter Kin Types in a few contests, but they are expensive (entry around $15-25 each) and when the manuscript was accepted by Finishing Line Press for publication, I decided to go with them, rather than spend more money on contests. Still, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest and a Highly Commended title in The Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition.

The only writing I’ve been able to do lately is a poem for my son’s wedding. It’s being framed and will be on a table with photographs of the grandparents (of the bride and groom) who have passed on.

Today is the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth in 1912, two days after the Titanic sank. Her birthday was two weeks after that of my paternal grandmother (though they were born 19 years apart). They were both Aries, as is the Gardener.  It’s hard to think of anything that is similar about the three of them, except that they have all been count-on-able.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Lucille Edna, although she was known as Edna. (Luanne is created from Lucille and my mother’s middle name Ann). Edna was Class Historian at graduation (her older sister was Salutatorian the same year) and  always wanted to be a writer. She thought of herself as the “Jo March” of her family (like in Little Women).

When she was elderly and ill, she made me promise I would never give up writing. That comment from Grandma found its way into a Kin Types poem.

from Grandma’s graduation scrapbook

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If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island Would You Have Any Poetry Memorized?

In fifth grade, we had to memorize a poem and recite it to the class. I loved doing that (like that shocks you) and won second place for “A Fairy Went A-Marketing” by Rose Fyleman. I was ticked off that I didn’t get first place and told myself that it was because my poem was longer than the one recited by the girl who took first place. Hahaha. Actually, I don’t know how she did because we had to go in the hall and recite our poems privately to the teacher. This was a kindness on her part, but it would have been great to listen to all the poems.

When my kids were little I had a handful of poems I’d memorized by accident that I used to recite to them with all manner of sound effects and gestures. One of my favorites was the “Double Double Toil and Trouble” passage from MacBeth. I also loved “The Spangled Pandemonium” and “Keep a Poem in Your Pocket,” as well as a couple of e.e. cummings poems. But after fifth grade, I was neither required nor encouraged to memorize poetry. A generation or two before my time students were routinely required to do so.

In that way, they would have literature to keep them company if they were stranded on a desert island or taken as a POW. Memorization of literature is good for the mind in a way that Google can never be good for us. Here’s just one article about the subject: Why We Should Memorize.

I’ve also heard that poets who recite their own poetry at readings, rather than reading them from the page, are electrifying performers. The thought of that terrifies me. What if my mind goes blank?

AS IT SO OFTEN DOES AS OF LATE. Either my brain is suffering from an overload of iPhone, iPad, computer, and social media–or it’s starting to decay. That is why I now can be sure to complete only one poem from beginning to end without ever reading it. And it so happens that little Perry loves to listen to it ;).

THE SPANGLED PANDEMONIUM

 

by Palmer Brown*

 

The Spangled Pandemonium

Is missing from the zoo.

He bent the bars the barest bit,

And slithered glibly through.

 

He crawled across the moated wall,

He climbed the mango tree,

And when his keeper scrambled up,

He nipped him in the knee.

 

To all of you a warning

Not to wander after dark,

Or if you must, make very sure

You stay out of the park.

 

For the Spangled Pandemonium

Is missing from the zoo,

And since he nipped his keeper,

He would just as soon nip you!

I figure Perry imagines himself as the Spangled Pandemonium, wanting to nip all of us if we go after him after he breaks out of his cage and the shelter.

*I tried to look up Palmer Brown and although he wrote five books for children and apparently lived from 1920-2012 I couldn’t even find an obituary for him!

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Is She Really Writing About Cats Again? (Hint: She Is)

Most days I’ve been visiting Perry at the shelter. He’s not a happy boy at all. Look at how he’s keeping his ears flattened now!

Yes, that’s a litter box he’s sitting in. One with little poos in it.

Rather than acclimating to the shelter environment, Perry is getting more upset and unhappy. When he hears a dog bark (and they do sound like out-of-control maniacs) he shrinks down further.  Yesterday I stayed a little longer than usual and added whispering to him on top of the reading and singing. He liked being whispered to, especially because he recognized the conspiratorial aspect when I let him in on a plan that I am hatching.

There are two choices. Either we can assume the vet that neutered him was wrong and he is a feral cat OR we can figure out a way to give him another chance to prove he can live with humans. We have zero foster families that will take a possibly feral cat. The only option is if WE do it. And I can’t bring him in with my other cats with their age and health issues. The stress would drive them into sickness.

So we can isolate him, but with my lymphedema (and the danger of cat scratches and bites) I can’t let him loose in a room where I could potentially never catch him again.

I ordered a 3 tier cage. I know, I know, it’s a cage. But if he’s going to prove he can be civilized (poor little Huck, I mean Perry), it’s our only option. So we will set up the cage when it comes, trap him in a cat den (that I also ordered) for minimal stress and bring him here to the new cage. We will put it by a window that looks out on the bunnies and birds and lizards (and if he sees a coyote or bobcat he will know that they can’t get to him). I will read, sing, and talk to him at least every two hours that I am home and awake. I will try to play with him with a string-type toy. I will keep setting little toys near him and try to get closer and closer to him without setting him off.

And we will see.

If he truly is feral and unwilling to be civilized we will have to find a place he can go and live an outdoor life.

At the shelter, we’ve got other cats in need, too. Two big litters of kittens are going like hotcakes, but the older cats wait. And new ones come in. Yesterday I witnessed a young couple surrender a gorgeous cat to us. The man didn’t speak and kept his sunglasses on, and the woman didn’t shed a tear and said they were moving and couldn’t keep the cat. Guess who probably insisted on GETTING RID OF THE CAT? What do they think will happen to their cat? She, at least, is probably telling herself that it’s a no-kill shelter, so the cat will be fine. What they don’t realize is that surrendered cats sometimes have to go through more than one more owner before they find a forever home. And will it be a good home? No way to know.

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To think about something besides cats, the gardener and I went to see Bullets Over Broadway at Phoenix Theatre. Funny show–and very well done! The acting and costumes were fabulous, as was the dancing. This show was written by Woody Allen and played on Broadway for 100 performances a few years ago.  I love the LIMINAL passage to the theatre–that threshold as one passes from the real world to the world of the stage.

No hummingbird nests yet this year, but in a big flower pot somebody created a “scrape nest,” which is a nest where the bird scrapes the dirt and forms a little hollow to receive her eggs. There is one speckled egg, but she has not come back to lay more. Birds like Gambel Quail do lay their eggs one at a time like that, but I think the time for her to come back has passed. The egg seems a little large for a quail, but I can’t think of another bird that could have made this nest. A mourning dove laid her eggs in a hanging pot, but I didn’t take a pic because it would have disturbed her. It’s bad enough that the gardener has to water the plant or it will die, and the bird will lose the green drapery she likes.

Today is my paternal grandmother’s birthday. She was born in 1893, and she is featured in at least one poem in Kin Types. She was the head fitter at the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s department store in downtown Chicago for many years and raised three children by herself.

What must it have been like to work in such elegant surroundings and go home to children you could barely afford to feed?

Only 3 weeks left to pre-order Kin Types and have it count toward publication. You can order it here. The book contains poetry, prose, and a women’s history.

 

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National Poetry Month: Make a Commitment

National Poetry Month begins today! You can make a commitment to learning more poetry by deciding to read, write, or contemplate poetry every day in April.   The Academy of American Poets asks us to kick off the celebration by reading these poems about the art of poetry:

 

  Tweet me here which one you like best and why!
Desert Botanical Gardens butterfly exhibit

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Less Than Four Weeks

Over the last week we had company and had fun every day. My best friend from junior high visited with her husband. We had fun here in town and also traveled through mid-Arizona to Arcosanti (Paolo Soleri’s unfinished utopian city), Montezuma Castle (cave dwellings), Sedona, Cottonwood, Jerome, and Prescott.  I got myself beyond-tired, that’s how tired! But what a great time, and we will miss them as they live in Indiana.

In fact, I’m so tired I haven’t prepared any photos for your viewing pleasure. Sigh.

Next day, the floor men and the termite man (yes, all men) came to fix our wood floor that was invaded by a few termites. Luckily, they all turned out to be dead (the termites, not the men, thank goodness), but the work lasted twelve hours–and is not done since they haven’t been able to match the stain color yet.

I received two copies of the new issue of Badlands Literary Journal with my poem “The Stuff of Claustrophobia” in it. You might recall an earlier version from when I did the Tupelo Press 30/30 poetry writing event. It’s based on a news event from Mexico where a young bride is misdiagnosed and mistakenly buried alive. When her husband realizes it, he tries to dig her up before it’s too late.

As far as Kin Types goes, the pre-order period has less than four weeks left. I know this sounds really obnoxious, but if FLP doesn’t get enough pre-orders, the chapbook can’t go to press. So if you are considering purchasing one, please do so now while it counts toward that initial important fact: getting it published.

A huge thank you to those who have already placed your order!

Carla McGill, of Writing Customs,  in her advance review, says there are “surprises and multiple perspectives.” Justin Hamm, editor of the museum of americana says “Kin Types exists at the precise place where literature and history intersect to make something both beautiful and true.” 

Carla’s entire review is available through the pre-order link:

 KIN TYPES 

 

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Cover Reveal of Kin Types

 

Finishing Line Press has revealed the new cover of my chapbook Kin Types. They put it on their website with my headshot, taken by my friend Renee Rivers.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: June 23

A little background on the cover image: this is a tintype from my family collection. It was handpainted, and the jewelry was painted in gold leaf. We don’t know exactly who the photograph is of, but believe it is of the Remine (Remijinse) branch of the family. My great-great-great-grandmother was Johanna Remijinse De Korne, born in Kapelle, Netherlands. I love how the Dutch spelling conjures up the word “reminisce.”

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