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Journeywoman

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poems by Carolyne Van Der Meer

Print: 978-1-77133-449-5 – $18.95
ePUB: 978-1-77133-450-1 – $8.99
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104 Pages
October 27, 2017

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Journeywoman is the story in poems of the explicitly female journey made by women through girlhood, motherhood and beyond. The play on the word journeyman is intentional with the notion of completing an apprenticeship and seeking mastery of the trade implicit. The actual journey, both physical and intellectual, however, is what brings woman to that state of mastery and Journeywoman, through verse, provides just one itinerary. This unique collection explores the stages of womanhood as defined by this author: the waif, the mother and the crone. It invokes the stories of many to describe the process of mastering the craft of being female, with all its inherent complexities.  The journey involves not only the physical alterations a woman undergoes through the changing of stages—the metamorphosing required to achieve mastery—but also true travel, the road embarked upon to achieve enlightenment, the attempt to grasp the intangible, the ethereal, the metaphysical, the disembodied, the sacred.

“It is gratifying and exciting to read a poetry collection like Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer. Here is a poet using her considerable skill to craft poems that exhibit a controlled intelligence at work. Masterful uses of image, sound, shape of thought, and evoked meaning are all employed as Van Der Meer guides us on a journey of discovery to concrete, named places, and along curving, challenging pathways of the mind and spirit. The poems glitter and chime with word choices that are precise and rhythmic. The language is clear, direct,  and concise.  The point-of-view is focused. The sensual detail is exhilarating. Take this journey and you will be find poems that challenge and entice. Journeywoman is a book of significant charms. Read it once, and you will read it again, then again. Each time you will linger at points along the journey, unconcerned about reaching the end. That, after all, is the point, the satisfaction found in our wandering, our exploration, our journey through life.”

– Michael Carrino, author of Always Close, Forever Careless and By Available Light: New and Selected Poems

“Carolyne Van Der Meer’s Journeywoman takes the reader on a rich journey through the many facets of womanhood. Everyday domestic events—slicing onions, breaking glass, sewing on buttons—become infused with deeper meaning through Van Der Meer’s keen eye and gift for turning these tasks inside-out and exposing their weighted underbelly. Delightful moments between mother and son, husband and wife, sister and sister are rendered in poems that feel like well told stories, full of evocative imagery. Literal journeys lead to playful and cheeky moments as Van Der Meer recreates moments of travel that connect the narrator and reader to other times and places. Perhaps most poignant are the poems in Section lll, “The Cancer Journey.” Here, the body becomes a geography in itself as Van Der Meer, with astonishing colour and honesty, describes cancer treatments that make the reader feel that she too is undertaking the chemical journey deep down in her bones. Reading the collection, which is both personal and infinitely universal all at once, the reader is enriched. The poems invite the reader in casually and are as inviting as the tea described in “Teatotaler.” The reader takes in the poems and experiences “all these essences/in one slow sip.”

—Lori Weber, author of Yellow Mini

 

Carolyne Van Der Meer is a journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in English Literature from University of Ottawa and Concordia University respectively, and a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers. Her journalistic articles, essays, short stories and poems have been published internationally. She is the author of Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience, published in 2014. Journeywoman is her first volume of poetry. She is currently at work on a young adult fiction novel. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

3 reviews for Journeywoman

  1. inannaadmin

    “Hoarding Time”
    Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer
    reviewed by Evangeline Holtz
    Canadian Literature Issue #237 – October 11, 2018
    https://canlit.ca/article/hoarding-time/

    The figure of the mother is being reignited and reimagined in Canadian letters: 2018 marks the publication of Sheila Heti’s long-awaited philosophical work of autofiction, Motherhood. While Heti debates whether to have or not to have children, Shannon Bramer and Carolyne Van Der Meer write from the other side of this decision, grappling with the multiplicity of roles motherhood necessitates, especially when these mothers are writers. In her review in The New Yorker of Heti’s latest work, Alexandra Schwartz writes, “[p]lenty of writers are mothers, of course. But writing depends on hoarding time, on putting up a boundary . . . between oneself and the immediate world in order to visit a separate one in the mind.” Bramer’s Precious Energy and Van Der Meer’s Journeywomen are collections of poetry which take up the particular challenges posed by motherhood for the writer. How to focus and allocate one’s time in spite of the kaleidoscope of tasks requiring attention? How to be present enough to witness the moments of your life but also find time to hoard in order to process these moments and create language out of them? And how does one cope when illness—in both of these texts, cancer—begins to compromise one’s time and roles? Bramer and Van Der Meer tackle these questions bravely and honestly.

    In Van Der Meer’s “I Will Long for This,” the speaker elucidates a singular moment between mother and son with the foreknowledge that it will become an emotional talisman: “the moulding of your scrawny body into mine” presents the tactile and static aspect of the memory, while the child’s escape—“you squirm / then scurry to watch cartoons”—becomes indicative of the temporal tensions of parenting, and of life. Van Der Meer performs extensive etymology on the titular word “journey,” deconstructing the term’s accrued meanings, which hover between forms of labour, travel, and the gleaning of experience, often as they pertain to the period of an earthly day. Her poems excavate the chronological pressure which imposes itself upon the everyday—the attempt to commit oneself fully to a moment, all the while knowing it is liable to squirm away into an unknown future.

    Known for her humorous and wry lyricism, Bramer succeeds in her exacting separation of sentiment from emotion. In “A Woman’s Open Mouth,” the speaker educates her daughter on female decorum, widening the spectres of truth and love. “It’s okay to hate me . . . you can love me and you can hate me again,” the speaker states plainly. It is also okay, according to Bramer’s speaker, if love and hate are non-binary and unformulated: “You can have a thought that is a lie / It feels true in your throat.” Bramer’s direct delivery demonstrates her speaker’s capacity for multiple ways of being, behaving, and processing in spite of the seemingly singular roles one is superficially burdened with.

  2. inannaadmin

    Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer
    reviewed by Michael Dennis
    Today’s Book of Poetry – February 26, 2018
    http://michaeldennispoet.blogspot.ca/2018/02/journeywoman-carolyne-van-der-meer.html

    Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer is tour de force poetry. Journeywoman demanded that Today’s book of poetry listen to Nancy Wilson this morning. That’s always a good thing, Nancy set new standards and made a few demands in her day.

    Journeywoman is carefully divided into four sections: Manoeuvring, Travelogue, The Cancer Journey and Fellow Travellers. Van Der Meer changes gears in each section but her voice stays the same, steady on the throttle.

    Here every poem rings true because Van Der Meer has chosen a language that is immediately accessible. Journeywoman is every woman, not that Van Der Meer is making any such claims, but Today’s book of poetry suspects that every woman could find themselves in these pages.

    Van Der Meer talks to us about family, travelling, friendship and cancer, and then she puts it down so clearly Today’s book of poetry has no trouble recognizing it as true.

    Finding the Hollandsche Schouwburg

    She asked me if I knew of it
    before I’d even arrived
    In the Jewish Quarter,
    a theatre, now a monument
    to the more than 100,000 Dutch Jews
    who were exterminated
    She was ready to educate me
    about this place seen
    only once before,
    but was still affecting her
    twenty years hence

    We wandered:
    goals along the way,
    things you must see
    we saw perky breasts
    g-strings,
    passed coffeehouses
    with strongly-scented terraces,
    ate a lunch of Dutch white beer
    warm geitje,
    goats cheese
    on toast a warm
    little goat
    she chuckled
    as the beer slid down
    Got lost between the University of Amsterdam’s
    Centre for Entrepreneurship
    a palliative care centre, passed
    the Dutch Resistance Museum

    fell into the zoo
    only to discover
    Hollandsche Schouwburg
    tucked around the corner
    on Plantage Middenlaan

    None of these
    the sex for sale
    the straying
    the nervous laughter
    could have lessened the effect
    of the long list
    of those deported
    to Westerbork
    of the lone
    obelisk taking centre stage
    in a now silent theatre

    Today’s book of poetry was misleading you earlier when we listed the four sections of Journeywoman, the truth is that it is all in here. The big three, Love-Sex-Death, and so much more. Van Der Meer’s keen eye takes in the details without ever taking her eye off of the poetry prize. Today’s book of poetry felt like I was listening to/talking with a dependable old friend whose wise counsel I could depend on.

    Canada has Lynn Crosbie and Sue Goyette, Alice Burdick and Susan Musgrave, Lorna Crozier and Nora Gould, Eva H.D. and Linda Pyke, Margaret Queen of Atwood and Phyllis Webb, Suzannah Showler and Kayla Czaga and a dozen more women for each of these but Today’s book of poetry asserts that Journeywoman allows Carolyne Van Der Meer instant access to that growing pantheon of Canadian women who are “must read” poets.

    Barcleona Beach

    I
    A spray of bodies against the Mediterranean–
    glinting grit on exposed breasts,
    sun rippling off six packs, great bellies,
    cellulite thighs and smooth backsides
    She recognizes the possibilities,
    imagines: some arrive together, leave together,
    some meet later for transient intimacy
    Jealousy, warring souls, lies, hunger–

    II
    Later in need
    of her bearings, she peels
    off her damp bikini
    Scrunching up her panties,
    runs them under tepid water,
    lathers mimosa and mandarin into the silk,
    squeezes out her own fluids
    When done,
    she steps
    lithely into the shower
    washes away the sun and sand,
    sweat and salt cleansed
    of other people’s stories

    Our morning read was an exciting affair. Today’s book of poetry had taken Journeywoman with him to Montreal for the weekend. She was tagging along when we visited The Word bookshop. If you love poetry and are ever in Montreal, Quebec, Canada you MUST visit Adrian and Luci at 469 Milton Street, just on the edge of the McGill University campus. Today’s book of poetry came away with poetry jewels and genuine glee and maybe even a new friend. You might even meet Scott Moodie, he not only works at The Word but writes fine poems on the side. Scott is an old friend from 1980’s Ottawa. The Word is a MUST see in Montreal.

    Today’s book of poetry showed the minions my Montreal poetry spoils but we wouldn’t let Milo at the new Tom Clark “Sparrow” titles, they were in plastic and he was eating a piece of pizza out of his other hand. Today’s book of poetry said NO. And I made him wash his hands before putting our marvelous Montreal loot in the stacks.

    Sorry for the detour, now back to the excellent Journeywoman.

    Carolyne Van Der Meer shows us, by example, how a strong woman’s heart works. These poems take us on a woman’s journey through time, love, friendship, illness and more. They do it with a voice you can depend on for clarity, humour and understanding.

    Prayer on a Train

    With heavy-lidded eyes
    fairly dancing she smiles
    hijab covering what I imagine
    a head of thick dark locks
    Her skin smooth, few
    signs of age

    She flattens her purse
    on her knees, leans forward
    on elbows, head bowed
    She pauses, looks up at me
    speaks Your son will wonder what
    I am doing I need to pray

    I smile my thanks
    My boy looks at me
    I tell him she is Muslim
    prays several times a day,
    while she, silent, eyes
    closed, mouths words
    only her god can hear

    Later — thank you
    I nod and ask her where she is from Iraq
    she says left for Kuwait
    to escape Saddam’s rule, only
    to find prejudice
    in her new home
    How could I raise my children there

    in 1993 chose Canada
    waited months in Senegal
    for confirmation of
    refugee status I ask her age
    51 or 52, she says
    I am not sure

    I realize she is more
    sure, praying on a train
    in a foreign land
    than so many of us at home

    Today’s book of poetry loved Journeywoman and is convinced you will love it too. Inanna Publications continues to publish some of the strongest women’s voices in the country. Carolyne Van Der Meer puts her name on a list of strong and extraordinary poets from Inanna: Vancy Kasper, Pam Galloway, Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, Eva Tihanyi, Cullene Bryant, Mary Corkery, Rosemary Clewes. Journeywoman adds one more name and elevates the group that much more.

    Strong, smart poetry will always find a welcome here at Today’s book of poetry. Carolyne Van Der Meer has thrown her hat into the ring. Some hat!

    Bravo!

  3. Renée Knapp

    Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer
    reviewed by The Minerva Reader – January 2, 2020
    https://www.theminervareader.com/

    Journeywoman was a wonderful collection to read as the sun set on a decade. Reflective, introspective and observant, the work follows the life of everywoman, the loves, losses, triumphs, challenges, hopes and dreams in this circle of life. There was much to relate to.

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