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