Doll God, Luanne Castle’s award-winning debut poetry collection, can best be described in terms of the water imagery that appears throughout. Some poems lap at the lakeshore of sensory experience, while others plumb the ocean depths of metaphor.
A prominent theme in the collection is the nature of artistic inspiration, in all its mystery, nuance, and, at times, pain.
“Between the Art and the Muse” presents the muse as a woman engaged in the old-fashioned art of making lace by hand. When the artist shows up, “he” inevitability summons the muse to “shadow behind him.” If only he would look behind him, he would “see a woman / blaze from the womb.” But of course he doesn’t.
In the title poem of the collection, the roles are reversed. Here, the artist is female, and she creates her doll god muse in her own image, but when she pulls him out of the mirror, he is male, a reluctant God “with a baby’s sour / wrinkled skin // one foot dragging / a notebook in one hand / and a pen that sighed as it moved.”
Dolls are also used throughout the collection to question whether we are created in someone else’s image, even as we seek to create ourselves. The same question holds true for our desire to control the creation of our own past.
Family relationships feature prominently, some with devastating effect, as in “Tricks”:
My drawings of my children are dimpled.
They shine like glazed paper.
This one of my son seems overpopulated,
So I will erase the brain that bedevils him
with pleated thoughts shuffling
like poker cards.
if I rub the eraser across my daughter’s heart
she’ll make her way like a straight-eyed
comet, leaving a wake of hunger.
The collection also includes poems that explore our relationship with nature, which I greatly enjoyed, “Motion” being one of the standouts:
This breeze surrounds you only
to unwrap and follow the birds.
This all happens
in one easy-to-miss instant.
Inside your skin your body
departs with them,
all of you linked together.
I particularly appreciated the poems focused on the landscape of the Southwest because I’ve never lived there. After a few rereadings, I realized that the poems express a relationship with the land that is very intimate. You can’t get it from visiting; you have to live it. From “Sonoran October”:
Midafternoon, the only movements:
cottontails dart like ballplayers
from creosote to cactus to ocotillo.
A sky so blue it hisses at my touch.
Out of many standouts in Doll God, probably the poem that resonated most with me was “When a Leaf Falls,” which begins, “Evenings like this set the girl humming / inside.” Like so many of the poems in this multifaceted collection, “When a Leaf Falls” captures one of those moments in life we don’t recognize as needing to be voiced until we read the poem which does just that. And isn’t this the reason we read poetry?
Arizona Inspiration . . .
Close to Home
From Doll God Cover Shoot
Doll God Publicist Kana