In “Shellback,” Osterman remembers her father from her mid-century childhood to his death at 98 in 2017. The book is set in her Pacific Northwest hometown and the Pacific theater of World War II. Her poems speak of love, forgiveness, tragedy and grief.
“Shellback” — the title is slang for a veteran sailor — is a plainspoken portrait of a World War II naval combat veteran.
Osterman, 68, writes about the nostalgia of her childhood days trying “to be his boy,” followed by the nightmares her father witnessed during World War II. With a daughter’s devotion, she then writes about wishing to understand him and caring for him in his last years.
The Everett Public Library presents “Writers Live: Everett Poetry Night” at 5 p.m. April 20 via Crowdcast. Jeanne-Marie Osterman and Steve K. Bertrand are the two featured poets. Register at http://www.crowdcast.io/e/everettpoetry. A link to the event will be emailed after registration. Call 425-257-8000 or go to http://www.epls.org for more information.
From the Academy of American Poets, “This year, to help celebrate the 25th annual occasion of National Poetry Month, we encourage you to check out these new poetry titles from our National Poetry Month partners, sponsors, and advertisers. Poems continue to offer us a sense of connection, and buying poetry books is one of the best ways to directly support poets and poetry publishers.” Full list here.
Diaspora: Volume L is part of a multivolume work of 19 letters, based on the #Filipino alphabet, from A to Y. Innovative in scope and approach, Ivy Alvarez relies on a deep engagement with Filipino idioms, cycling through the free verse #poem, visual poem, and prose poem forms.
Steve K. Bertrand and Jeanne-Marie Osterman will talk about poetry and each will read a selection of their Everett-inspired poems.
Steve K. Bertrand is an award-winning poet, historian and photographer. His poems, stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications locally, nationally and internationally. In addition, Steve has had a long career as a teacher/coach in the Everett School District. Steve has been very involved in lectures and poetry readings throughout the Pacific Northwest. The author of over 35 books, Steve lives in Mukilteo.
Jeanne-Marie Osterman was born and raised in Everett. She is the author of There’s a Hum and Shellback. Her poems have appeared in Borderlands, Cathexis Northwest, 45th Parallel Magazine, The Madison Review, California Quarterly, and other publications. A finalist for the 2018 Joy Harjo Poetry Award and 2017 Levis Prize in Poetry, she is poetry editor for cagibilit.com, a journal of prose and poetry.
The daughter of a World War II naval combat veteran remembers her father—from her mid-century childhood in the Pacific Northwest, to his death at age 98—in her collection Shellback.
12th STREET: In terms of grief and dealing with grief, what is your understanding of belonging, humor, isolation, and the part they play in the process of healing?
SHADE: I love this question. I see something of poetry in the structure of the question. The juxtaposition of belonging, humor, and isolation—the togetherness of these three—resonates with me as a moving way of lifting ideas right up off the page about what makes us tick. Because for each of us there is belonging alongside isolation, and humor has a special bond between them. Humor can carry us from dark isolation to joyful belonging. Belonging is of joy, and isolation the opposite—isolation is manifest peril, very much so for those who suffer addiction. I grew up in small-town Alabama. We were a mom and four kids whose early years were interrupted by the deep trauma of loss—my dad was killed when I was two. To this day in my family, we hold each other close with the deepset fear that we might lose another of us. All of my childhood, I was laughing and entertaining the others. I longed to make them feel joy. At a very early age, instinctively I recognized that humor distanced the pain. On Christmas in 2017, the loss of my baby brother Matthew, a half brother many years younger, was a loss that unknown to me at the time gathered in its arms all the other losses I’ve experienced and the fear and dread of more. I made expressions of that deepfelt loss and pain in poetry, on monastic retreats, all of which came together in this book Shield the Joyous. And many times I reached for humor in the poems. I would like to say that this process has been one of healing, but I feel so far from healed that I wonder if healing is even possible. Sometimes I think healing is simply to have hope that it is possible to feel less pain, so that I may cope enough to do more work out in the world.