Doll God by Luanne Castle

Chalked on the blackboard of Mr. Black’s grade ten high school English classroom was this quote from Carl Sandburg: Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. It stayed there for the month or so that we covered poetry, reminding the tryers among us what we had to do to make people go “ahhh”.

Later, in third year-university, Professor Ron Wallace brought all us “excellent” English students to our knees as he taught us how to parse a poem. We weren’t allowed to talk about feelings. No, we had to explain HOW the poet conveyed what she wanted the reader to feel. I learned never to take a word for granted. I learned connotation and denotation. I learned sound and word placement. I learned rhythm and meter and stress. I learned I was a shitty poet and didn’t understand poetry very well after all. It was horribly humbling.

Still, I continue to write poetry, mostly for fun and without serious intent. It is a kind of catharsis. Some people keep journals and do morning pages. Poetry is my emetic. Up come all kinds of ideas and I feel pretty good afterwards. As my dear friend with Crohns Disease says, “Better out than in.”

But I still love reading poetry. And I found myself holding my breath at times when I read my friend, Luanne Castle’s, book of poems “Doll God”. Yes, in it she does what Carl Sandburg advised. She marries plain Jane to George Clooney and makes you gasp in recognition. Her subjects are everyday things – cats, plants, and birds; marriage, dolls, and nursery rhymes; cactuses, arroyos, and saguaros; children, worry, and anxiety passing and permanent; loss.

Luanne’s book is at my bedside where I have a nightly read of a few of her poems and go to sleep with powerful words and images like these:

“When you wake before sunrise,
See the sky’s floor crack open.
Molten light flows in, pools
At the horizon. You can’t go back
To sleep or to yesterday. Today
Wells up before you like an open
Wound which needs tending.”

Or this:

 “Mid-afternoon, the only movements:
Cottontails dart like ballplayers
From creosote to cactus to ocotillo.
A sky so blue it hisses at my touch.”

I need my dictionary and Google. Do you know what a javelina is? Or an ocotillo? How about “locus”? I love that I have to grab my dictionary when I’m lying in bed. I love my old dictionary, too, with its crumbling glue that flakes onto my chest when I open its hard covers. I love the old-fashioned touch of Luanne’s book and the smell of ink on paper and gently turning the pages so as not to disturb the sleeping words waiting for me on the next turn.

Sometimes I have to turn the page without understanding what I’ve read but that’s okay. Poetry can be a puzzle just like the giant jigsaw you leave for weeks on your dining room table, you suddenly recognize where a piece should go and tap it in place.

I expect Luanne’s book will be at my bedside for a while.


21 thoughts on “Doll God by Luanne Castle

  1. Wonderful review! I’m buying Luanne’s book the moment I post this comment…“When you wake before sunrise, See the sky’s floor crack open…” I think I might just have to sign up for a poetry class. AND your Clooney line is stunning!


  2. Wonderful review. I remember Carl Sandburg from reading his book Rutabaga Stories when I was ten. I always think of his fog with “little cat feet”, I’ve loved poetry since before I knew what it was. I didn’t imagine I would immerse myself in writing it in my vintage stage of life.


  3. What a gorgeous (poetic) review of Doll God! I haven’t read it and am just getting familiar with Luanne Castle through her blog. Poetry can be intimidating, but you bring her book (and my desire to read it) to life here with images like: “She marries Plain Jane to George Clooney.” What an image, when considering poetry! Well done.


  4. Reblogged this on Writer Site and commented:
    Menomama3 of Life in a Flash and Wuthering Bites might have been the first person to order Doll God from Amazon. We’re not sure, but suspect so. Now she writes a review of my poetry collection that is as well-written, personal, and completely engaging as her posts her!!
    Ms. Menomama3 also was one of the first bloggers I read when my daughter and I started our adoption blog several years ago. Ms. M and I are both mothers in transracial (and international) adoptive families–her children are from China and mine are from Korea.

    Stick around for the rest of her blog, while you’re over there reading the review!


  5. S, thank you so much for this personal and well-written review of Doll God. I am not surprised at the well-written part at all, as I am a big fan of your memoir writing on your blogs. I love that you started out with Sandberg because he was my first public school introduction to poetry. I remember sitting in my 3rd grade classroom reading how the fog comes on little cat feet and feeling a recognition of sensing one thing in another (in that case a cat in the fog). And the plain Jane marryng George Clooney analogy–hilarious! Gonna reblog this fab review. Thank you thank you thank you.


    • I forgot about the fog poem! Yes, that may have been the first “real” poem I remember from elementary school, too. You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!


  6. A beautifully written post. I love the Sandburg quote and how your professor challenged you. I write poetry for the same reason you do, although I know I’m no poet myself, as Luanne is. I love the snippets of poetry your shared with us and look forward to reading more.


    • Hi Deborah, Funny you should mention Professor Wallace. The mark I got in his class was one of my worst in university and yet everything he taught I remember to this day, some 36 years later.


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