I have updated and added to this post.
So–this arrived last night. I left it on the kitchen table, and I just started reading it–you know, leafing through it the way one does–and I got sucked in. I had to force myself to put it down because I have work to do. It is a powerful, lyrical mixture of poetry and prose, tragic accounts of everyday life–stories from her family history. Well, at least that’s what I’ve read so far. I’ll return for more in a bit.
OK, back to work now!
Luanne Castle is an award-winning poet. You can read more about her here.
So, nearly five years later, I’ll finish this review, which I thought I had done. Though I can’t really argue with my summary or that “You should probably read this.”
Kin Types is a selection of poetry and poetic prose that is based on Castle’s ancestor’s stories—which are her stories, too. Each piece is thoughtful, carefully crafted, often poignant, and sometimes almost unbearably tragic. There are stories of births and more births, deaths and more deaths. Castle tells us in “The Nurturing of Nature and its Accumulations: Thank you to Behavioral Epigenetics”:
“Anything that happened to my grandmother before she got pregnant imprinted the genes she shared with my father and then with me.”
But in “Advice from My Forebears,” she writes, “Just let be.”
Castle seems to be part of a long line of people, immigrants who were fated to face tragedy and seemed unable to stop it, to “just let be.” The prose poem, “And So it Goes” tells the story of Pieter and Neeltje. Without giving too much away, Pieter escapes his sad life in the orphanage to find love with Neeltje, and eventually to a new home in America. But tragedies affect Neeltje and later in life, Pieter wishes “He wanted to do it all again. . .he would notice her. . .he would see the way she was.”
Other poems have left indelible tragic images in my mind, in particular “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought of Dutch Peter” and “Farmhouse Table.”
This is not a book of light poetry, but it is so well worth your time. You should probably read it.
A final thought. I didn’t remember the epigraph at the beginning of Kin Types:
“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us,
people who came before us.”
When I reread it, I wondered—having I been carrying these words inside? Because it’s so much like my thoughts in my own recent book, River Ghosts. And it makes me wonder about the words we carry inside like ghosts.