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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Undoing Winter, by Shannon Connor Winward

I was about to write my review of Ms Winward's chapbook of poetry, "Undoing Winter".  Then I looked at the time. 2:45AM. Not at all late for me; however, I'll be on a deadline tomorrow. The only way to get through everything which needs doing is to get up what I consider early--9AM. Ghastly thought!
I'm going to bed like now. Or maybe in a few minutes if Khiva & Vartha double-team me for a patting session.

UPDATE I've spent the last two days choosing between me options in discussing "Undoing Winter" I should review the cycle of poems according to literary rules vs. my idiosyncratic reactions to Ms Wynward's poetic offerings. Or my non-reactions to a given poem.

Analyzing the architecture of lines or the core of a poet's purpose revealed by word choice--whatever it is that scholars to poetry actually do--is far beyond me. Yes, between 1965 and 1968, I chose to add unofficial minors in both English Literature and Psychology to my undergraduate studies. Technical poetic theory  trickled out my ears not long after entering them. 

To create "Undoing Winter" Ms Wynward draws from many life experiences, from interactions with therapists and from her solid academic studies in mythology and in psychiatric theory. 

To interpret "Undoing Winter" I relied on fragments of a radically different life than Ms. Wynward's, on 40+ years of psychotherapy guided by therapists each with their own understanding of the human psyche, on four years of histody including a variety of ancient myths, and on psychological theory gleaned via my undergrad psych minor and my year of psychology grad school. 

Our disparate life experiences limited what I felt I could comment on.  Fulfilled romantic love, a husband, pregnancy and children are all alien to me. So while I read all of Beansidhe, Space, On Raising Boys, Intentions, I Visit Your Heart, Weaver and Warren as many times as I did Session, Gravity, Moon Song, and Undoing Winter, I decided it best not to comment on the poems in the first group. Why share opinions about the bulk of Wynward's poetry if it would be idiosyncratic?

As for the remaining four poems I hope I'm not too wide of the mark where my experiences distort her message.

I recommended Ms Wynward's chapbook to someone who writes poetry and who has a poetry mentor. This person told me they were open to reading, "Undoing Winter" and perhaps commenting on the poems that I'm not equipped to review. I'll add any observations they offer.

So then, 

Ms Wynward captures the patient's inevitable sense of frustration while working with even the best psychotherapists. She comes seeking help but she must suggest where to dig into her past. To then have her thoughts ignored.

How many selves do we each have if each of our pasts last a millisecond? The dig is infinitely large. Those working at the site of her endless pasts don't know which bit is relevant. Therapists miss fragments of remembered experiences even as their patient points to them. In the meantime their patient most likely suffers gaps in their memories making her a fallible guide.

They sift 
"dirt through a screen 
trying to make tableaus..."
which are complete. 
But no tableau of relationships will ever be complete. Memory gaps already exist--no patient can remember every second of their past. Sometimes we resist remembering, for fear of coming face to face with long-suppressed disillusionment or self-reproach.

Shards of memories may work backward and forward in time, altering and transforming themselves the better to hide within a congenial memory-home where the patient's original pain or bewilderment is softened.

How can archaeologists of human psyche tease out all these details and much less restore the whole pattern?  "[So] ...there [are] never enough pieces."

Each therapist wants to,
"... bring them [all] up... to catalog them"
To ask, "what I think it means
as if it were only
a metaphor."

How apt is Ms Wynward's metaphor about metaphors!
Can the clinical psychologist see no more than a clinical description in a book?
Not even Ms Wynward sitting right there across them? 

She asks them to,
"look more closely.
Sometimes a cigar is also
a cigar."*

To see the person--all the people--she once was.
"Peel back, gently,
the layers of my resting-place
I will not fight you.
...I am in situ..."

* My favorite line. Ms Wynward playfully alters Freud's words in the service of asking her therapist to focus. "Sometimes a cigar is also a cigar." Every patient is also a patient not just a diagnosis.

Ms Wynward describes the burden of unsaid words,
"What I do not tell you
...transcends words."

Not unlike the situation described in "Session", mere words may describe in a way that is,
"...all perfectly
 But words alone are never enough to convey every aspect of reality.

" ...there [are] never enough pieces."
Hidden emotions. Purposing one thing. Doing the reverse.
Where are the words for these?

Moon Song 
I merged all of "Moon Song" with Elizabeth Maines' cover design below because Ms Wynward's words described my own experiences so accurately.

Or not.

As someone said once, "words are clumsy". Even half-remembered experiences rising like ghosts from our youth are better defined in our thoughts than by any words we might use to convey those thoughts to someone else.

If I say that one minute I was content to sing--not even thinking of the meaning of the lyrics--and the next minute half-forgotten memories choke my voice does this mean anythimng to some one else? Is Ms Wynward describing a similar experience here? I don't know. I can't know because I can't see through the churned up memories.

Ocean and ocean.

In Gravity, Ms Wynward wrote,
"...gravity is why the
water always comes back
to the shore...
I wonder if the ocean beats herself up
for feeling this way.

In Moon Song, we read,
"I just know that the song rises
like the ocean reaching for the sky

Is her singing a celebration of breaking free from gravity? Of defying the urge to keep returning to the shore?

The trapped ocean--who beat herself up for remaining trapped--has a taste of freedom in Moon Song. Then the ghosts (memories?) invade.  Are certain memories a kind of gravity that keep happiness out of reach?

Or am I psychoanalyzing myself rather than analyzing Wynward's Moon Song?

Undoing Winter
Some 20 years ago a therapist suggested I read the myth of Inanna about her brutal trip through the underworld. Possibly she did it to win back a lost lover but no one seems to know for sure. It's been a long time--I guess any witnesses are dead.

I think my therapist suggested the exercise as a way to remind me that I wouldn't be depressed forever as long as I kept stuggling to be free of my depression.
Well, it didn't work.

Too bad Ms Wynward had yet to write Undoing WinterHer depiction of Demeter hustling her daughter Persephone out of Hades might have had a salutory effect on me. 

"You are just an idol of fungus here,
Sovereign queen of basements..."

"I went to all this trouble.
Now I'm standing before you and my feet are cold
in fact I'm fucking freezing.
So get your coat..."

"You can write sonnets, if you like
in praise of the Lord of Shadows.
Paint some stormy watercolors.
Invent a flower.
I don't really care
so long as you get started
undoing this winter you created."

Now that's the way to deal with mental illness! Is that what my therapist expected of me way back when? (If only it had been that simple.) 

I hope that Ms Wynward wrote Undoing Winter as part of a successful bid to shake depression, or that she wrote it later in celebration of her success. That would be cool. Anyway, this poem is exhilarating!

Thank you for your collection!

And to everyone else. Are you buying this thing or what? You'll find the information you need below the cover illustration.

Regarding the image above, I layered a semi-transparent graphic of "Moon Song" over the cover so that you could see both.
If you would like to see both more clearly and read the rest of Ms. Winward's "Undoing Winter" collection, the details are below.

Undoing Winter is now on Goodreads!

For those interested in purchasing a copy, Undoing Winter is available through 
Finishing Line Press. The cost is $14 plus shipping
— OR, come find me in person and buy a signed copy direct from the source! 
See my CALENDAR OF EVENTS for a list of upcoming appearances.

Shannon Connor Winward--poet, novelist, and friend.
FROM GOODREADS  About this author

Shannon Connor Winward is an American author of literary and speculative fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared widely in such venues as Pedestal Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, Strange Horizons, Illumen, Ideomancer, Silver Blade Magazine,, Star*Line, Hip Mama and PANK, as well as in genre anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. Shannon recently earned Honorable Mention as an emerging artist by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Shannon is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and a Rhysling Award nominee. She lives and writes in Newark, Delaware. For a full list of publications, or to read her accounts of writing, witchery, mommyhood and general sassiness, visit her website:

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