Turning Inside Out
by Sandra Kolankiewicz
There’s very little that is off limits for Sandra Kolankiewicz. In person and in her poems, she’ll give you the whole story: the bad and good parts, no matter how aching, how intimate. In 2005, she returned to poetry after more than two decades focusing on other genres. She had good reason to abandon poetry. Shortly after learning that she was going to be published for the first time, the editors who had chosen her poem asked for a meeting during which, line by line, she was asked to justify her work. Unsatisfied with her answers, the editors pulled her poem from the publication schedule. Sandra packed away all of her poems and turned to fiction.
Twenty-five years later, a constellation of events caused her to rethink her relationship with poems. A dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, quickly deteriorated, and died. It became clear that her son, who is autistic, was not going to make the much-prayed-for miraculous recovery and that she would have to leave her job at the college where she had worked for over a decade in order to care for him. There were two wars on the television. Her parents were aging. Sandra didn’t have time for fiction. But she knew that she had to write, so she returned to poetry. “Anwar Sadat’s Wife’s Lover”, one of the poems in Turning Inside Out, was written the weekend that she saw her friend for the first time after his diagnosis. “Gleaning” was written after he died. Turning Inside Out is a collection of new poems, written in 2005 and later, and old ones that had been in storage since the early 80’s. Shortly after putting the book together, it won the Black River Chapbook Competition.
Turning Inside Out is a book that follows the acrobatics of one’s emotional movements when it seems impossible to decide which is worse: the self or the world. It can also read as an index for how and when poems are essential, how and when they can save a life.
From the book:
Turning Inside Out
by Sandra Kolankiewicz
I would do if I could,
turn my eyes inward yet keep
that other half still
unknown to me, my constant companion,
just the distance of skin away,
but this time on the outside,
glistening into the dry air,
a steaming colander of
hot, red organs,
pushed with their membranes
from one universe
Meanwhile, now on the inside,
nice and dark though somewhat
suffocated and thoroughly,
gratefully, unable to see,
I remember the world—
glowing—the way my arms
and legs moved me though space,
how I orbited other
bodies, other spheres, other
more complicated shapes.
The blackness is anaerobic now.
Air would kill me.
The poems in Turning Inside Out are not poems from the Ivory Tower, nor from the rich and famous. These are poems made from the grit and grind, from the pain and joy of the ordinary struggle, but it is ordinariness taken to a larger level-- one that makes Kolankiewicz's poems vital and important. These are poems that demand to be read.
-Robert Kinsley, author of Fieldstones
Kolankiewicz’s work shows a mind that fearlessly and empathetically observes herself and the world around her. To read one of these poems is to see the corners of one’s own life frankly and compassionately illuminated on the page. In particular “Keeping Pigeons” is an evocative blend of fact, passion and verse of which I have not experienced the like since reading Loren Eiseley's "The Star Thrower.”
-Dr. Scott Hartsel, Professor of Biochemistry, The University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
The speakers who inhabit the poems of Turning Inside Out are, at turns, irreverent, sassy, and somber. What they share is disengagement from a world they can no longer safely navigate, from landscapes--exterior and interior--that time and circumstance have rearranged. Landmarks may remain familiar, “But where to go from there?” Agency is compromised, desire thwarted. What becomes of such contemporary disorientation lay at the heart of this promising first collection by Sandra Kolankiewicz.
-John Hoppenthaler, author of Lives of Water and Anticipate the Coming
About the Author
Sandra Kolankiewicz has a BA and PhD from Ohio University and attended the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. Her collection of stories Con/sequential Monologues was a finalist for the 2007 Spokane Prize, the 2007 Tartt’s First Prize, the 2008 Hudson Prize, and the 2008 and 2009 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for short fiction at BkMk Press. Her collection entitled Isla was a finalist for the 2007 Hudson Prize and the 2008 St. Lawrence Book Award. Her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the 2008 Hackney Award for the novel from Birmingham Southern and was a finalist for the 2008 George Garrett Prize from Texas Review Press. She currently teaches English at West Virginia University Parkersburg and is active in the autism recovery community.
Turning Inside Out is available from the Black Lawrence Press website.
Click here to order your copy.