From Prairie Schooner: Poems "funny, stark, spot-on and utterly beautiful comprise her collection, "Our Foreigner", "a brilliant and dark comedy". This is Betsy Sholl's apt description for the poetry of Nance Van Winckel, one of the Northwest's foremost poets and writers, and her latest release from The Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books. Van Winckel's own relatives traveled west enduring the hardship and tests of character that confronted those who made such treks in the 1800's. "Our Foreigner" explores, among other conditions and anomalies, ideas of journey, progress and regress, travel both physical and psychological. A variety of voices populate this collection, speakers from the past, or bright, sassy, contemporary folks talking as if all they have to do is open their mouths and out flies poetry. They manage, these poems, to be at once plain-speaking and brainy, lucid and deeply mysterious.
"The soul of the West lives in Nance Van Winckel's work, manifest in strange ways that never fail to haunt me." —Diane Lefer, author of California Transit
A 99-year-old great-grandmother tells the story of a family filled with quirks, foibles and downright strangeness through a series of photographs and family memorabilia. The photographs are all captioned, some at great length, by the family matriarch. They describe life in Butte, Montana, surrounded by the great copper mines of the early 20th century, and, later, by the environmental devastation left behind when the mines failed.
Here, in 1999, as the town awaits the Y2K meltdown and a virgin birth is apparently about to occur, Grandy hurries to divest herself of the secrets concerning both her good and bad contributions to Butte and her own descendants.
"No one writes closer to the bone than Nance Van Winckel. Lyrical, ethereal, otherworldly, these stories elevate our everyday lives with their exacting attention to detail and their gentle plundering of the human heart." —Kim Barnes, Author of In the Kingdom of Men
Lynette and her two cousins, Jessie and Buster, narrate the linked short stories that make up Boneland. Their fathers, brothers, grew up on the ranch in Montana, a place rich in dinosaur fossils that gives the book its title. Continuing an enormous task begun two generations back, one of the uncles is still reconstructing a fossil in the old hay shed. The cousins, meanwhile, carry on the family tradition of reconstructing the mysteries of the past. Fate is sudden and powerful in the life of this clan. A baby is dropped, a family drowned, a tsunami in Thailand changes the course of an already troubled life. Van Winckel releases time from strict adherence to chronology to reveal surprising correspondences. With shifting points of view and distinctive voices, these linked stories, in the hands of a master of the genre, capture the mutability of human experience and the meandering plot lines that make up our lives.
"Van Winckel's intersections of then and now, other and us, are the stuff of real poetry." -Mike Dillon, City Living
Nance Van Winckel's wry, provocative slant on the world and her command of images and ideas enliven these stunning poems. Presented in two parts, Pacific Walkers first gives imagined voice to anonymous dead individuals, entries in the John Doe network of the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Records. The focus then shifts to named but now-forgotten individuals in a discarded early-1900s photo album purchased in a secondhand store. We encounter figures devoid of history but enduring among us as lockered remains, and figures who come with histories-first names and dates, and faces preserved in photographs-but who no longer belong to anyone. The voice that brings us these poems is multifaceted-now a reporter for the Daily Sun, now a child, now a ghost, now historical, now autobiographical-always revelatory in its life force and urgent questioning. It is, finally, as fluid as the river that winds through, uniting these singular and unknown selves. Their worlds-and ours-intersect and flicker in this haunting book.
"Nance Van Winckel's new collection is alive with the natural world, full of kinetic storytelling and a willingness to observe even the smallest part of our lives which, of course, often impact us the most. This is also a book of poems that celebrate the ten thousand things of our culture, from The Bronze Age to Value Village. Van Winckel knows that part of the poet's job is to witness back to us our own experience and she does this with a voice I am happy to know is singing in the sometimes dark and rainy days of our planet." -Matthew Dickman
"An exquisite collection. Those who love stories; those who are interested in ways of thinking about memory, the passing of time, family history, old photographs; and those who enjoy just hovering for a moment in the beauty of arresting details and language will be eager readers of Pacific Walkers." -Nancy Eimers, author of A Grammar to Waking and Oz
FROM THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: Award-winning poet Nance Van Winckel presents NO STARLING, a brief yet evocative selection of poems utilizing a variety of rhythms and soundscapes. Subtly community-building in its reminders of human responsibilities for each other and the world at large, No Starling touches upon spiritual and political issues alike, singing aloud in a crystal clear voice that deserves to be heard. "Leastways": The ship had a bar, listing. A porthole / awash. Loyal drinkers swearing they'd seen / the giant squid. Sheer genius, they said, / to survive the millennia, the depths. // I blinked into that window at only / my face... all splash and dissolve. // Days under the white sails, over / cruel swells. Days taken / like aspirin. Hard little fact / of the body: if it goes down, / I go. And the bar raised. The bar / tilted. A tentacled here-on portends / a hereafter. I hang on. Rain clouds / pretend to take the lead.
University of Oklahoma Press, 2013
“Portraying idealists who haven’t lost the faith, her stories are positive without being saccharine, wise without being ponderous, and her quietly humane vision effortlessly lifts up both the people she writes about and the people who read about them.”
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