Doll God Paperback – January 10, 2015
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About the Author
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Doll God is a lyrical history of life—or many lives. The stories Castle tells us are at once poignantly personal and profoundly universal. A quiet moment with an estranged husband, wistful memories of summers spent with a childhood friend and the sad history of a man’s descent into vagrancy and invisibility; these stories cut to the core of human feeling and being.
Throughout I felt the poet’s love and compassion for flawed humanity and felt my own heart breaking for people Castle has brought to life in her poetry. Each poem is a glimpse, a ray of light shining on tiny moments of life that often go unexamined.
Luanne Castle’s poetry is so beautifully written I often found myself caught between experiencing life through the poet’s eyes and admiring the wonderful way in which the poems were constructed. Here is a collection of poems to savor more than once! They remind me of how I feel when reading Whitman’s poetry—elevated and in love with humanity no matter how imperfect.
With Doll God, I sometimes felt like I was falling, that sensation of falling off a cliff just before you fall asleep. And then you jerk awake. With some poems, I felt sadness over times past that can never be recaptured. In "Calculating Loss,” I got chills at the realization, the recognition of the presence of loss. A missing chair. One less car in the garage. A half-empty jar of pebbles that, to the poet, seemed overflowing. Things missing should imply a vacuum, empty space. It made me think of how I would feel if my husband of 25 years was suddenly gone. I could imagine emptying out his closet but then never being able to fill it because it would already be too full of my loss.
Castle’s emphasis on dolls often made me think of my childhood and the horde of Barbie dolls I possessed (as well the members of her clan: Ken, Skipper, Midge). But the dolls in many of her poems span generations, even centuries. There was "Marriage Doll" and that exquisite image of the Hakate marriage doll with it's hand upraised but empty, juxtaposed to a husband, flesh-and-bone, in the same pose but not empty-handed. “Marriage Doll: 1 of 2,” the poet wrote.
What I love about poetry (and this is also why it intimidates me) is that poetry evokes feelings in me that I can’t articulate, it changes me. I didn't feel sad after reading Doll God, but I felt changed somehow. Like someone pointing out the homeless guy huddled in a doorway on a dark, cold, rainy night, and then telling me a story of the man's childhood ("Vagrant"). Like reading notes from someone's diary about a day in October in the southwest and the shift in the habits of both wild and domestic creatures ("Sonoran October"). I am changed. I know something, feel something new. The words are in the poetry so I really doesn't need to find my own.
Daylight burns brighter, scrape
deteriorates into amputation until day
is here and there is no yesterday.
From "Calculating Loss":
Every day the world subtracts from itself and nothing
From "American Girl":
I am the wait.
Don’t wait, dear Reader. If you enjoy poetry, especially that which makes you look at your world differently, allows you to question and reflect, then pick up a copy of Doll God. I highly recommend Luanne Castle’s poetry.
Castle's Doll God world is one where the imperfect imagination celebrates its own wonderful and terrifying brokenness in the echoes it finds in motherhood, fertility, destruction, secrets, the making of things, and ultimately in the human desire to keep reaching from the muck toward the light. In this sense-- the images and how dolls appear continuously point backward and forward to these themes. The found doll in the mud. The doll buggy made in a munitions factory. The too American American Girl Doll. The mistreated child in ruffles dressed like her doll. The dolls dragged to and fro by their hair. The things mothers make for their children. And overall, what God makes and why it all should matter.
These poems burst with images that richochet long after you've moved to another poem. I'm so thrilled to be part of this literary journey as Doll God begs me to sit and puzzle together the kind of partial meanings that lure me back in hopes of finding the key to an ever-elusive wholeness. The beauty of this poetry collection is in discovering it's the search-- not the wholeness-- that keeps us turning the pages and holding the book closer to the light.
Castle has given the reader a visceral experience of what it is to be aware, vigilant and searching despite, the bombardment of an imperfect world.
Thank you for an amazing read Luanne. I'm hooked! And, grateful for and intimate understanding of the underpinnings of your amazing craft! Powerful!