#Bookreview: Doll God

Luanne Castle Reading Doll God on Morning Scramble Television Show

My Review

Click cover to purchase from Amazon.

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

Baby Hummingbirds

From Doll God Cover Shoot


Doll God Publicist Kana

103 thoughts on “#Bookreview: Doll God

    1. Thank you, Linda. I appreciate your kind words. I’m really enjoying the opportunity that writing book reviews gives me to exercise thought muscles I haven’t used that much since college and grad school.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is a wonderful review, Liz. You convince me to read her poems, and what more can a poet wish for! The photos remind me of three months I spent in Arizona 20 years ago, a place which inspires poetry.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, good! I’m so glad to hear that you will be reading Luanne’s poems!! My work here is done. 😉 Luanne’s photos show the desert landscape to its best effect. I’ve only been to Arizona once, when my daughter took her father and me to see the desert.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The book is delightful. In addition to the strength of the individual poems, Luanne did a great job of curating the collection so that themes and motifs emerged as I read. Before I started reading poetry collections on a regular basis in the past couple of years, I’d read individual poems, dipping in and out, but not reading a collection as an entity in itself.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It takes a special talent to see the beauty where the eye struggles 🙂 I haven’t been to Arizona, but I am fascinated by desert landscapes of all sorts. Life in those kinds of areas have to be so resilient and innovative!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is lovely, Liz—both the poems and the photos. Thank you for reminding us why we read poetry and for giving us marvelous poetry to read. I’m sending this one to my daughter for Easter!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! Liz, a superlative review of Luanne’s first poetry collection! Your in-depth analysis creates a vivid image of the poems, the effect upon the reader. Congratulations to Luanne and well done to her for capturing “those moments in life we don’t recognize as needing to be voiced until we read the poem which does just that.” Yes, that is EXACTLY what poetry is all about! Many thanks for sharing with us, Liz and I will keep an eye out for the book! xx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I should add that Luanne Castle’s poetry, from the bit that I read and your review was the convincer to avail myself of a copy, for which I just now ordered a copy from Amazon.ca
        Ergo, Liz, of the worthiness of reading your reviews!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a sensitive review, Liz. I especially like your reference to “our desire to control the creation of our own past.” Many people seem to believe that our past simply “is,” in the sense of a historical, unvarying series of events that happened and are permanent. But of course we reconstruct our sense of our past every day of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautifully composed review, Liz. You show off Luanne’s poetry delightful poetry so well… and there’s a photo of her pretty black cat 🙂 I feel a book buying spree coming on at the end of the month.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “A sky so blue it hisses at my tough…” My god you’re a genius, painting with words. Lovely review!!! And your photos!! Wow!!! Gorgeous! I can especially relate to your “publicist”! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. An intriguing title, Liz, “Doll God.” You write a wonderful review where I am drawn into a poignant, creative and thought-provoking book. The Family relationships are almost disturbing, yet hit a chord. You describe well how poems need to be reread to discover their layers. Wonderful photos of Arizona Inspiration and Close to Home. The baby hummingbirds, exquisite. Congratulations to Luanne! A wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautifully written review that definitely piqued my interest in reading Doll God. The. photos are exquisite – especially the one of the kitty publicist 😊. You give context to the poetry and take a dive into technique as well. Very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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