Will I be an actress? An archeologist? An author? Luanne Castle pondered those possibilities as a girl. The Western Michigan University alumna says she's become something of all three. Her debut poetry collection Doll God (Aldrich Press, 2015) won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award and the Best Poetry Book in 2015.
Castle says her work resembles archaeology because it requires research, curiosity, and a drive to find out more. But she adds, “Of course, when you read poetry, it’s performative.”
Castle writes poetry but also maintains a blog called The Family Kalamazoo about her genealogical research. She also enjoys writing prose. All of that writing almost became lost along the way. But Castle says a promise made to her grandmother kept her on track, even when rejection letters took their toll.
“My grandmother was a writer,” Castle recalls. “When I was a little girl, she was writing funny little stories. They would get published in the Readers Digest, and the Chicago newspaper. But by the time I was a teenager, she’d given it up.”
In her final years, Castle's grandmother insisted that she never give up on writing. Castle promised that she would continue and has kept her word.
“Although I have the drive myself, when you get those six rejections in a row, I think about that promise I made to my grandmother,” Castle says. “I kept writing and I’m glad I did. Now I have a book published.”
Castle invested about 20 years into writing the poems collected in Doll God. Academic studies occasionally disrupted creative writing but she would always return to her poetry — and a doll collection that by now numbers in the hundreds. Dolls appear in many of her poems.
Castle says her work examines two antithetical things. One is nature. The other is the creative work and imagination of human beings. “I see it in myths, fairy tales, and art. But I also see it in something like dolls. The whole book is taking a look at how our spiritual world is inhabited and showcased by both nature and creative art.”
Castle remembers her years at WMU fondly, citing the influence of many professors, scholars, and mentors. Her husband, parents, grandmother, and other several family members are all graduates of WMU or its predecessors.
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