Colorado poet Jodie Hollander on ‘My Dark Horses’
If You Go …
Who: Jodie Hollander
What: Reading from “My Dark Horses”
Where: Basalt Regional Library
When: Friday, Oct. 6, 5:30 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: Hollander will also host a poetry workshop at the library on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; basaltlibrary.org
Jodie Hollander loves powder days.
But the Avon-based poet isn’t rushing to the chairlift line with the crowds when snow dumps on the mountains. Powder days, she finds, are the best days for writing poetry in a ski town.
“I’m not a skier,” she said this week in a phone interview. “And no one is around — every one is out skiing. It’s really quiet.”
Hollander recently published her debut poetry collection, “My Dark Horses.” She’ll give a reading Friday at the Basalt Regional Library and will lead a poetry workshop there on Saturday.
The collection is filled with deeply personal, emotionally direct poems about Hollander’s troubled relationship with her mother and her experience growing up in a family of musicians.
Her mother was a cellist, her father a concert pianist, her two siblings violinists. Hollander quit music by age 12.
“My parents were OK with it, but it immediately made me the black sheep of the family,” Hollander said. “It pushed me out of the center of the family conversation, which was probably the beginning of my poetic sensibility.”
Music is not only the topic of many of these poems, which draw raw emotion of images like a metronome, a music stand, her brother’s violin and her mother’s hands on a cello — her verse also carries a resonant musical rhythm in its meticulous lines.
The collection returns throughout to the themes of family and music. Hollander said she didn’t set out to write a thematically linked body of work, but found herself digging deeper and deeper into her memoires of her mother and classical music.
“Poems about family just emerged, one after the next, so I think the topic selected itself,” she said.
Her poems draw depths of memory out of objects like pianos and rugs, from specific moments like speaking with her mother via Skype before her death and receiving her will in an email. The rawness of emotion in the poems is matched by the precision of how they’re written. Asked how experience makes its way into poetry, Hollander said she needs some time and distance, pointing to Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.”
“It’s usually years after an event that memories come back and, if I’m in a quiet and peaceful place to bring it back to life, that’s how a poem will emerge,” she said.
The collection also includes several responses to poems by Arthur Rimbaud. Those have a peculiar backstory. As Hollander recalled it, she had planned to try her hand at translating a French poet to English. When she went to the library in Avon in search of French poets, she found Rimbaud was the only one they had a single author collection of in their shelves. So she tackled Rimbaud. But as she translated his poems, she was called to do more with them.
“I began thinking about how I could blend my aesthetic with Rimbaud’s,” she recalled, “and I shifted the process from translating to responding to this intensely surreal poetry.”
Hollander will offer further insight into her process at Saturday’s workshop in Basalt. Open to writers of all experience levels, it will include an introduction to metrical poetry and a focus on what Hollander calls “the poetry of place.”
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