Courageous, insightful, and unsettling poems about war and family ties.KIRKUS
Kirkus reviews SHELLBACK by Jeanne-Marie Osterman, one of this year’s top indie press books! Read the full review here.
An Everett native pays a poetic tribute to her father
“Shellback” is a collection of narrative poems honoring John D. Osterman, a lifelong Everett resident and WWII veteran.
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.
Join the Everett Public Library for a celebration of poetry on April 20 at 5pm Pacific. Everett Poetry Night will feature two poets whose work is inspired by their lives and experiences in Everett.
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.
Jeanne-Marie Osterman’s collection, Shellback, takes us to the heart of her relationship with her father, a World War II Navy veteran and kamikaze survivor. Set beneath the tall trees and rainy skies of the Pacific Northwest, and the Pacific theater of World War II, these poems speak of love, forgiveness, and the tragedies of war. Vividly nostalgic and plainspoken, Shellback is both a tribute to her father, and a longing for the closeness to him she could never quite achieve.
A not-untroubled tribute and a difficult elegy, Shellback traces the attachment of a daughter to her father from her childhood days of trying “to be his boy” to the grown-up’s task to be his caregiver in his last years. Including horrific details from the father’s WWII Navy service in the Pacific, which the poet memorializes in blunt, terse lines, alongside the harrowing specifics of his decline, Osterman limns a portrait of a complex relationship. Marked by candor and clear-sightedness, these poems resist soothing resolutions and easy solace, which is why they are sure to ring true to readers. —Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Letters from Limbo
More at ostermanpoetry.com
Congratulations to Jeanne-Marie Osterman whose recently released poetry collection, Shellback, has gone from Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank (American Poetry Books) #6,569 to #450 as of February 19th! Osterman and her book are also mentioned in the January issue of the Granite Falls Historical Society Newsletter:
A social media post by Fred Cruger further details Osterman’s connection to the Puget Sound area:
“John Osterman, 90, introduced himself when he got to the museum, then mentioned in rather casual terms that his dad had built the first shingle mill on Blackman’s Lake (the one just outside Granite Falls). Specifically, he built a shingle mill on the exact site of what has been Miller Shingle Mill in Granite Falls since the mid-1940s… the “O-D Shingle Mill” (stood for Osterman-Dahlberg) [eventually] became known simply as the “Osterman Shingle Mill”. That all happened in 1939, shortly before John entered the service and left to fight in the war. John said that he’d never been back to the mill (his Dad sold out to Miller in the mid-1940s), but he wondered if there was any possibility he might get a look at the mill. It was late afternoon, but by good fortune, there was someone still at the mill . . . Bruce Miller III . . . and Bruce happily suggested we stop for a quick visit.
“When John and I arrived, it took Bruce a couple minutes to appear, but in his hand he was carrying an old shingle. He said, “This has been kicking around the office for over 60 years, and we’ve never known what the letters on it stood for. Got any idea what they mean?”
“The look on John’s face was something to behold. On the shingle was written:
“Sure!” said John. “O is my dad – Osterman – and D is Dahlberg, for my cousin. I packed the shingles from that first bolt and I had no idea anyone had saved one!” He went on to share the story of the mill with Bruce Miller, who could see the tears of joy in John’s eyes. What a thrill it was to connect the threads of history in such an unexpected way!… John and his daughter visited us again in 2015. Her poetic tribute to him is impossible to put down.”
“New poetry alert! Shellback is a beautiful tribute to Osterman’s father and to memory itself.”
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“A not-untroubled tribute and a difficult elegy, Shellback traces the attachment of a daughter to her father from her childhood days of trying “to be his boy” to the grown-up’s task to be his caregiver in his last years. Including horrific details from the father’s WWII Navy service in the Pacific, which the poet memorializes in blunt, terse lines, alongside the harrowing specifics of his decline, Osterman limns a portrait of a complex relationship. Marked by candor and clear-sightedness, these poems resist soothing resolutions and easy solace, which is why they are sure to ring true to readers.”
—Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Letters from Limbo
“Shellback is an elegy for a man who taught his youngest daughter how to “stretch a buck, drive a truck, / anchor a screw, win at gin rummy.” Jeanne-Marie Osterman toggles between nightmarish scenes her father witnessed during World War II and the smaller but no less affecting traumas of his final months in a nursing home. Her language is spare and colloquial, with moments of irony and deadpan wit that illuminate every detail. The arduous work of losing and grieving is beautifully preserved in these poems, which in their vividness function like a series of photographs. Or a time capsule. Or amber—something tough, primordial, and nearly clear. Osterman conveys, impeccably and with unflappable grace, the hard-earned knowledge that “no one is only / their sins.”
—Mark Bibbins, 13th Balloon
“The beautifully sequenced poems in Jeanne-Marie Osterman’s Shellback yield a searing portrait of the poet’s father as a Depression-era boy and a Navy World War II veteran, given to emotional coldness and barely repressed anger. Their poignancy resides in the poet’s filial devotion, her wish to understand him and care for him in his old age. As Osterman writes in “Forgive:” “I let memories I can’t erase / rest in peace, / knowing no one is only their sins.” With often haunting imagery and carefully clipped lines, she memorably portrays a man, his era, and a daughter’s unstinting love.”
—Gardner McFall, On the Line
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, An emotional Juggernaut
Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2021
“Family relationships can be very complicated. Here, Ms. Osterman captures the changing relationship between her war-torn dad and his young daughter. Written in free-verse, the poet brings us along as she describes her dad’s character, the enigmas of his changing conduct, all the while indicating that she is beginning to understand what made him the way he was. I read the book in one sitting, going from poem to poem. I really wanted it to end “happily”. I won’t tell you whether it does. You must read it for yourself.”
nicholas m. ullett
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning poetic portrait Father by his daughter
Reviewed in the United States on February 13, 2021
“Shellback is Jeanne Marie Osterman’s portrait of her father in poetry. It is moving and terrifying. From her efforts to care for him in his dotage to his service throughout WWII, it is a brilliantly evoked vision of her relationship with him. The beautifully sequenced poems evoke a tough tribute to a man who was clearly difficult to live with and yet it remains a description of a daughter’s endless love. I cannot recommend it too highly.”
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, new voice
Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2021
“It’s rare that a fresh new voice arrives on the scene with such wisdom and flow.
“His Third Girl” and “Horny Goat Weed” bookend Osterman’s yearning to be accepted by her father when she was a child; and her need to care for her him near his life’s end.. And “On the USS Nevada” and “The String” are just two of the extraordinary portraits of war at sea and of a man who silently absorbed but never talked about the horrors he saw. These are big, universal themes. But Osterman’s personal experience and exquisite narration makes them uniquely hers.”