Luanne Castle’s Kin Types

When is a poem not a poem? When it’s a kin type, Kin (literally, one’s family or relations) type (a category of people or things having common characteristics). The reader doesn’t quite know what to expect when diving into Luanne Castle’s second poetry collection, Kin Types because it is immediate evident that this is not fiction, not poetry, not history nor prose. Kin Types is all of these things spun into a genre-bending volume of poems that demand to be read over and over again, for their plot and lyricism, and for their contribution to the preservation of times past for both one family and all families.

As a fan of Castles first award-winning book, Doll God, I was expecting more of the types of poems that cause one to pause, and reminisce; these poems provoke memory you didn’t even know you had. The kin in Kin Types are a bit grittier, by sheer nature of their age, more mature; these poems may be full of vignettes your gramma couldn’t bear to tell you.

From Advice From Our Forebears, which reads like a foreward at the book’s opening:

We can’t talk about it, but here’s your great-grandma’s Eastern Star ring so you will have a signal.

Coming from my own Masonic roots, the meaning and the secrecy were not lost on me.

Everybody was always dying it seems, but the text isn’t sad. It is practical. Like a detective out of Dragnet, Castle aims to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth. Seemingly without embellishment but by no means stark, many of the poems spell out plainly the hardships of life without modern conveniences. The Ill-Timed Elopement tells us plainly what happened to the couple, but underlying the facts, there is a shred of hope that, pardon the cliché, springs eternal, as it does in many of the poems.

Once and Now speaks of a hate ripped right out of current events:

“Given their immigrant circumstances, the career

 had seemed wise until now, with Huns like red

Devils leering down from propaganda posters

Jeering them with their German names,

a town friend’s Dachshund ripped from her arms,

his brains smashed on the pavement, onto

her shoes. Shoes she showed Clara, pointing,

See, see how dangerous they are in their hate!

This is a great gift book for your friend that likes history but doesn’t yet know if she likes poetry. Good for the reader dipping her toe in the area where history and creativity collide. The cover makes for a fine conversation starter, especially with the addendum found on the author’s website LuanneCastle.com. This volume will proudly sit atop your coffee table collection, and the poems will spark conversation as well as memories, depending on the reader’s age and inclinations.

This book will also likely appear on the shelves of the 23andMe and the Ancestory dot-comers, as well it should: these are not just lines about Castles family, they are bits of wisdom from generations past and passed down.

Suggested classroom reading for multiple themes, scholarly research and something-for-everyone contents: 5 stars.

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My complacency elected Donald Trump, and for that I am truly sorry.

Oh, I voted.

In fact, I voted for her.

In my people-pleasing “don’t rock the boat” manner I wheeled my rolling walker behind the heavy curtain in our old-fashioned voting booths and quietly pulled the lever. (If I had to do it in a big open space like I saw the First Couple have to do it, I would have had some panic issues.)

I didn’t even think of it as “the lesser of two evils,” I thought of it as the only rational choice.

I even clicked on the voting machine switches extra lightly, as if people could hear me vote. I felt a sense of relief as I left the polls. Still, I told no one, as I I didn’t want to disappoint a loved one, and I didn’t want to become embroiled in debate.

Since my brain surgery 10 years ago doctors keep congratulating me. It is as if surviving a tumor that strikes primarily young men was something I deserved some sort of credit for-one Doc shook my hand like I won an Olympic gold. I never felt that way. But I felt that way about voting Tuesday. That I deserved some sort of medal for overcoming obstacles  physically, and mentally, emotionally and literally to get out and vote.

Not having my old confidence to debate (due to aphasia and the inability to hold on to a thought for more than a few seconds (think ADD on steroids), I avoid ‘talking  politics.’ On a certain level I started to feel less entitled to my opinions and that I should just leave it up to quicker, more articulate tongues.

I used to feel that everyone around me could do or say what they want but in the end, they, same as me, would go behind the heavy curtain and get one single vote. Naïve, and again, I am sorry.

I apologize to every person that will be marginalized by the incoming administration.

I am not deluded that speaking my mind would have changed the outcome of the election, but it is embarrassing that so many didn’t have a chance to know where I stand due to my conflict-avoidance behavior patterns.

Next time I will be more vocal, clearer and more transparent. The same things I expect from our government elected officials.

Next week: “Taking a knee.”

100 Words About Jell-O

Words that make no sense to a child.

“If you don’t take those ear-muffs off, you’ll be freezing when you go out.”

My Nana had this yellow enamel pan with a black line around the top edge. She made the Jell-O in it. She made that jello just for me. Oh, she made a couple of other things in that pan, like baked beans, but the jello was mine, and it was always there. I understood that my parents and my mom’s parents would always be there for me, just the way the jello was always there.
It may not sound like such a big deal, but these are the things that separate us from the animals.
100 words about Jello. There.

My Letter From Edward Albee-(Out of the memory box #3)

My letter from Edward Albee Circa 2002

My letter from Edward Albee Circa 2002

Edward Albee’s passing last week was a little hard to take: we only have a couple great American Playwrights left. I wrote him a letter once, and he wrote one to me. The letter (above) was a response to my effusive love of the play “The Goat.” I thought I was the only person that would love the play and I wrote Mr. Albee so he wouldn’t get his feelings hurt when the mixed reviews started rolling in.

(The reviews were so mixed, some critics didn’t review it at all, while it went on to win the Tony award for Best Play 2002). When all of your plays are held up to your “big” play, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which you wrote when you were 30, life can seem like a downward spiral, I suppose.

Turns out  Mr. Albee didn’t need the kudos from me; in addition to the Tony, the was a runner-up for a Pulitzer that year. I put the tickets in the memory box and didn’t think too much about it until last week, when I saw Mr. Albee’s obituary.

*

We rushed into to the theater and took our seats as the house lights flashed a couple quick blinks for the two-minute warning. We sat up close to the stage in the historic Golden Theatre, so close that when Mercedes Ruehl smashes a plate during a climactic scene, I just about jumped out of my chair. There were glass shards lining the edge of the stage. How nobody lost an eye is part of the magic that is Broadway.

Bill Pullman, the level-headed President in the film Independence Day paired with Ruelh. Together they used Albee’s words to lead you to forget how life is when you think YOU have it weird.  The lead actress does the only thing you can do when your husband might have a very hairy mistress. She drinks.

Jeffrey Carlson, (Hitch, All My Children) , did an amazing job as an awkward teenager playing an awkward teenager in an awkward play. Years later I would find out he was no teenager-kudos to hair and makeup.

I was so mind-blown by the content of the play that I wrote a letter to the playwright, Edward Albee. Surprised when he wrote me back, one sentence from his letter would forever change me:

“No two people see the same play!”

Think about this, it not only rings true, it magnifies the theater-going experience and it means that even your grandmother might enjoy a play where sex with a goat is analogous to all of man’s depravity. It seems so simple but it served as a springboard to freedom to write some of the grittier things that, up until that time, caused me to shy away.

I’m not sure what I wrote to Mr. Albee that garnered me such a profuse thank you note, and it was likely the last handwritten note that made it into the memory box before email took over the correspondent world.

Rest In Peace Edward Albee 3/12/28-9/16/2016

 

 

 

9/11/01

jayesbrain

I was working at the cable company, surrounded by televisions. Everyone was leaving the building. I stayed and waited for more people to arrive for work; I didn’t believe the media coverage of what had happened.  It was all so incomprehensible to me, a “War of the Worlds” kind of hoax. A few people with loved ones stuck in the city were crying. The next day a bunch of us got together and l went to church, a bunch of people of varying denominations went to a local Catholic church to pray. (My dad always told us there were no atheists in a fox hole, this would be the day that I understood him). It wasn’t until the third night after the attack that the smell started to drift to the local harbor.

People held open the doors for strangers entering the grocery store. People made eye contact.  I didn’t…

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