Jodie Hollander’s Healing Flight from Classicism

By Jeff Wing   |   January 24, 2019
Jodie Hollander hosts Poetry of Grief and Healing in the Faulkner Gallery on Saturday, January 26 (photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

Jodie Hollander grew up in a musical family, and that is a largish understatement. Concert pianist father, cellist mother, two sibs each with the gift of drawing effortless gossamer from the violin; dinner conversation ran to the rhapsodic. Now imagine Jodie – a young girl whose double helix would later reveal itself as a ladder to verse, and not to music at all – struggling mightily to fit in. Piano, cello, flute, even the comparative indignity of guitar – nothing took. To the growing consternation of her parents, particularly her mother, Jodie couldn’t find a way in to her own family. For a young person, it was just that withering mix of heat and pressure that can degrade one’s spirit. Or produce a hothouse flower.

“I don’t know exactly where the decision came from,” Jodie says today of her eventual surrender. “I recognized I wasn’t as talented as my sister and brother. There was something inside of me – I felt there was a different path for me. But that had implications.” Implications. Like the family gabbing animatedly at table about Mahler, almost pointedly leaving Jodie outside the magical circle. Night after night after night. The vibrant energies of that crucible and a darkly filigreed relationship with her late mother inform Jodie’s art today. A family of four classical musicians and one square peg/preincarnate poet being put through the gauntlet? The setup has the flavor of a fable even the Brothers Grimm might’ve waved off as too alarming.

Today Jodie Hollander is indeed a many-splendored poet whose plaudits happily vindicate her early, and inconvenient, inklings. Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa? Yeah. National Endowment for the Humanities Grant in Italy? Yup. Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland? How’d you guess? Epiphany came with an 8th grade poetry assignment. “I wrote the poem, and there was something about transforming my experience into writing that was incredibly gratifying. I suddenly felt, ‘I should be doing this.’”

Later, a 16th birthday gift saw her summering at warm Pomona College (Jodie hails originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) – Jodie on arrival shouting around the hallways with the precocity of a fledgling in full test-flight: “Who’s the poet around here?” Then the naive stumbling into the office of Pomona’s vaunted poet-critic-translator/faculty lion Robert Mezey; and a new corner turned. “I saw that he was in. I walked into his office with a handful of my poems, gave them to him and said, “Will you look at my poetry?” She laughs ruefully at the memory. Mezey churlishly took her papers (possibly too stunned to recoil), and scanning the pages murmured indistinct approval. Later came mentorship and a happy meeting of minds. They remain poet pals to this day.

On Saturday, January 26, Jodie Hollander – Santa Barbara’s Squire Foundation Poet-in-Residence, will lead a free public workshop in commemoration of the flood events of early 2018 that devastated the area. The gathering – Poetry of Grief and Healing – will meet from 10 am to 2 pm in the Faulkner Gallery, main branch of the Santa Barbara Public Library. All ages are welcome to attend, and an RSVP is requested. The free meeting will discuss the genuinely healing power of poetry, will discuss and demonstrate the craft of poetry, and will invite attendees to compose their own works, turning their experiences into healing art.

Jodie Hollander’s poems have been published in The Poetry Review, The Yale Review, PN Review, The Dark Horse, The New Criterion, The Rialto, Verse Daily, The Best Australian Poems of 2011, and The Best Australian Poems of 2015. Her debut publication, The Humane Society, was released with Tall-Lighthouse (London) in 2012.  Her full-length collection, My Dark Horses, recently published with Liverpool University Press (Pavilion Poetry).

What: Poetry of Grief and Healing
Where: Faulkner Gallery, Santa Barbara Main Branch Library, 40 East Anapamu Street
When: January 26, 10 am to 2 pm
Free Event


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