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.