Kin Types by Luanne Castle

5.00 out of 5 based on 1 customer rating
(1 customer review)


Welcome to Luanne Castle’s Kin Types, where every piece, poem or prose, is a ghost –-but not the sort you can see through. You see, Castle’s ghosts have been resurrected through powerful emotion and startling detail, have been made suddenly solid and real again with a skill that brings to mind the work of Edgar Lee Masters. Herein we find all the heart and heartbreak of ordinary lives from the past finally valuated properly, given their own set of lines and stanzas, their own sentences and paragraphs, the attention and care of a gifted and sympathetic writer. Which is to say, you’re going to want to stick around for a while. Kin Types exists at the precise place where literature and history intersect to make something both beautiful and true.

–Justin Hamm, author of American Ephemeral, editor of the museum of americana


Luanne Castle’s Kin Types is based largely upon genealogy and a fascination with what comes to all of us from the past. A mix of poetry in the traditional sense and highly poetic prose pieces, the collection takes the reader on a journey into the lives of women and somewhat into the lives of men who must carry on alone once the women are gone. The journey of this collection is not a ramble into the past, but a slingshot into the here and now by way of these portrait tales.


Of particular importance to readers are these lines from

What Lies Inside:

What lies outside my mind is nothing. Mother’s bones cleaner

     than steak bones, buildings diminish to the horizon.



          Inside my mind
a junkyard, castoffs from outside others,
               flickering and igniting when struck on its inside walls.


Clearly, Castle is letting us know that she (and we) are all inhabited by stories of our ancestors.


Castle explores the warnings and quirks of relatives in poem after poem. Perhaps Castle is also issuing a warning in Advice From My Forebears to those whose lives are lived by the word and pen: Don’t quit writing like I did. Make me a promise. The whole collection is a promise, and not to be missed, whether for its flashlight into the past or its beam into the future.
–Carol Willette Bachofner, Poet Laureate Emerita of Rockland, Maine



Kin Types

by Luanne Castle

$14.99, paper


Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle‘s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Luanne has studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; Western Michigan University; and Stanford University. She divides her time between California and Arizona.

1 review for Kin Types by Luanne Castle

  1. 5 out of 5

    (verified owner)

    Most people enjoy hearing family stories, narratives about one’s own ancestors and also those of others. We instinctively know that people from the past have something to teach us, that we will learn something about ourselves and about history from hearing stories about them. The new chapbook by Luanne Castle, Kin Types (Finishing Line Press, 2017), is an inventive approach to family narratives and a suitable collection to follow Doll God (Aldrich Press, 2015), her first book of poetry. That collection encompasses aspects of her own childhood and adult life, and this one features sketches of late relatives in both poetry and prose.
    Long an archivist of her genealogical history in both photographs and narratives, Castle has done something extraordinary here with the information she has gathered over the years. Capturing ideas about genetic memory and the prevalence of ancestral traits in one’s being, she has created nineteen sketches that offer glimpses of painful incidents, overlooked aspects of family scenes, and features of individual characters that will resonate with readers who have heard similar stories via the domestic oral tradition. True to form in the Castle milieu, both God and the devil are in the details.
    Even the first poem, “Advice from My Forebears,” offers hints at the larger stories in brief phrases: “Make up your mind what church you’ll attend/and go there as often as you can stand,” and “Don’t grab a burning oil stove without considering/the consequences.” In an intelligently placed arrangement, the stove appears in the second poem, “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” an evocative account of the tragic burning of Aaltje Paak DeKorn, 1852-1908, who heard children screaming and ran to help them, embracing the burning stove:

    Did she take note here?
    This is the moment my life changes.
    I can’t finish the dishes, wash my unmentionables,
    get dinner ready for Dirk and the children before
    it’s too late. It’s going to happen.
    It’s happening now.

    She jumps into a “cistern, a water-holding pit, not a well,” and “Hands of all sizes reach for her.” As she “rises a glistening babe, old flesh separates from unborn flesh. She stands before them peeled.” The riveting story is heightened by Castle’s imagery of her apron, which “blooms into a billowing sail” as she runs, and the “sliced strawberries centered on the oilcloth nailed to the tabletop,” seen in the smoke.
    Perhaps it is the thrill of the image that will captivate readers, as it did me, and along with it the intriguing history of the people, many who immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands and Germany. In “New Life, New Music,” the blend of both content and style produce a frisson of emotion. The subject of this poem, Jennegien Bomhoff Zuidweg, 1838-1924, whose age is revealed by her “many wrinkles,” notices a boy:

    His dark blond curls were so
    like her brother Lucas when a baby
    and not yet the young man she kissed
    in his black coffin.

    The poem, “Someone Else’s Story,” is remarkable for its depiction of the life of Caroline Meier Waldeck, 1872-1946, and demonstrates Castle’s ability to poetically express the nuances and meaning in the life of an individual, a “wife/and mother alone with strangers,” who has to work for them “skimming/milk and scraping her knuckles on the washboard,” after her husband is committed to an asylum. She hears the strangers speak about her “as if she/were a cow hobbled for the sake of her calf.”

    Better not to think of these things and to study
    late at night her correspondence course.
    Work study work study. She was no cow.

    The varied assortment of approaches enriches this collection, offering surprises and multiple perspectives, as if we are seeing painful private moments along with public opinion, outside points of view. We learn in “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” about Mrs. Culver, a divorced wife whose artist’s easel is blamed for her marital difficulties, and in “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead” about Mrs. Louisa Noffke, a murder victim whose death was blamed on indigestion, through newspaper articles. Other pieces, such as “And So It Goes,” are long narratives that convey essences of a relative’s entire life. One poem, “Once and Now,” uses a letter to reveal the larger life story. In essence, the collection contains so many adept moves, it is an invigorating experience to read it through. Intriguing and absorbing, these poems have emerged from a sympathetic and astute writer.

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