The poems and flash prose in Kin Types were begun as I accumulated family stories and information over the years. My grandfather had an excellent memory and was an enthusiastic storyteller, so over time I came to feel that I knew his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, although they died decades before I was born.
When my grandfather got older, he gave me a collection of glass plate negatives that had belonged to his uncle, as well as antique photographs. As my family noticed my interest, they began to send me other heirlooms, including documents and more photographs. I started to research my family history, using online websites. Then I started a WordPress blog called thefamilykalamazoo.com, and readers from around the world contacted me, sending me yet more information.
As I became more knowledgeable about my family, the stories I heard at my grandfather’s knee were enhanced and verified. Sometimes the experiences of my ancestors, like those of all people, were tragic, and I tried to put myself in their lives and write as if I as there. Sometimes, as in the poem here, I didn’t look for anything monumental, but rather looked closely at everyday life.
I imagined what it was like for an immigrant woman who had lost a brother and a country to see the world anew through her grandson, my own grandfather.
New Life, New Music
The boy in knee pants didn’t notice
the many wrinkles
or if he did they created that comfortable
space between his own raw starch
and her eyes and smile that were only his.
Already her height, he spent
his days fishing and playing ball.
He thought her wide, but under the six skirts
her small frame had shriveled. She reached
under two layers and pulled out an apple,
polishing it on her apron before
presenting it to him with a magician’s
flourish on the tip of her knitting needle.
His dark blond curls were so
like her brother Lucas when a baby
and not yet the young man she kissed
in his black coffin.
She and Lucas at the canal-side herring
market, listening for the bells, stealing
into the Pepperbus, Catholic
and forbidden. They played Sjoelbak
in the alley. This boy brought into
movement all these dead memories,
animating them with this new place,
each day rhythms born in them.
Jennegien Bomhoff Zuidweg
Zwolle, Overjissel, Netherlands
Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States
Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle’s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Phoebe, Six Hens, Story Shack, The Antigonish Review, Crack the Spine, Grist, TAB, River Teeth, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Luanne’s 2017 chapbook Kin Types (Finishing Line Press), poetry and flash nonfiction, was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Contest.
Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at UCR (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. She taught college English for fifteen years. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Her heart belongs to her six cats and the homeless cats at the animal shelter where she volunteers.
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Kin Types is a collection of lyric poetry, prose poetry, and flash prose that imaginatively retells the lives of private individuals from previous generations. Using family history research, the writer has reconstructed the stories of women and men from Michigan to Illinois to the Netherlands. Read together, the pieces create a history of women dealing with infant mortality, vanity, housewife skills, divorce, secret abortion, the artist versus mother dilemma, mysterious death, wife beating, and a brave heroine saving a family’s home.
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