Despite a career that was mainly spent writing non-fiction and creative non-fiction books, the EMU English professor Paul Lindholdt always had the desire to write a poetry collection.
During his college years, Lindholdt worked under Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard.
“She really enlightened me,” said Lindholdt, explaining Dillard’s lesser-known affinity for poetry. “Even today, many, many years later, I am enthusiastic about your example, your personality and, above all, your writings.”
While Lindholdt ultimately went for a Ph.D. in literature and won a 2011 Washington State Book Award for his memoir “In Earshot of Water”. Poets Prize and published poetry all these years.
“It’s something that is deep within me,” he said, half-jokingly about the dozen of poems he has memorized over the years. “You almost remember yourself; I didn’t really have to work on it. “
Lindholdt’s new collection “Making Landfall” goes back to his dissertation research on early American literature.
“By the time I finished this course – finished my dissertation – I was only caught by the voices of those 17th colonists.” It was very organic. “
Inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson and John Donne, Making Landfall is a collection of monologues in one direction or another. They are largely dramatic. Many are written as accompaniments to other poems in an “interlocutor” or conversational style.
The title of the work “Making Landfall” has a double meaning. “From the point of landing, the land began to fall,” he said. In other words, it literally refers to the arrival of colonists, while highlighting the gradual “fall” of the country itself, i.e. the decline in environmental integrity, another issue that is close to Lindholdt’s heart.
The collection is a chronological overview of early American culture, beginning with immigration and sea voyages, through the settlement and gradual subjugation of Native Americans, to the decline of the Puritan culture that dominated early American Anglo literature.
Lindholdt hopes that the collection will convey “the diversity” of early American culture beyond the traditional, monolithic conception of its puritanism.
While the Native American tradition of oral and written history somewhat narrowed its contributions to early American literature, he stated that “it would be a blatant mistake to overlook the presence of Native Americans in early American culture.”
He also emphasizes the role of the Spaniards as well as some of the “more irreligious types” who clashed with the prevailing Puritan culture.
“That’s what I hope readers will take away,” he said. “That there were many people who wanted their freedom, whatever that freedom was.”
When writing “Traveler to the Colonies”, the first poem in the book, he knew immediately from that first voice that a whole collection would follow. The voices of each of the following poems emanated from the first in the form of what he imagined as “satellite voices,” he said. From then on: “It was just a matter of listening carefully enough to heed it.”
And then the editing began.
“The revision process is like an iceberg,” he said. “I was surprised at how labor intensive it was. The art of poetry is so demanding. “
Lindholdt gives some advice for budding authors.
“First of all, don’t wait for God’s breath to inspire you. Second, revise, revise, revise. Although it is really time consuming, the joy (of writing) comes in the revision. “
Third, he emphasizes the importance of listening.
“Very often, writers don’t spend enough time listening to the music of the language. But if we don’t hear the poems out loud, we lack a great deal of joy in the poetry. There has to be this oral dimension. “