Vail poet’s first full-length collection gets major U.S. publication
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Eagle County poet Jodie Hollander book launch
WHEN: Sept. 9, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
WHERE: The Tattered Cover Book Store, 2526 E Colfax Ave., Denver
Skiers and snowboarders aren’t the only ones praying for powder this season.
When the fresh snow hits Vail, and the fluff hounds are hustling to hit the slopes, local poet Jodie Hollander finds her inspiration.
“On the powder days, when everyone is out skiing, I like to take my dog and wander through the forest, and have the entire place to myself,” she said. “Those are the nicest days for me here in Vail, when everyone’s skiing and it’s really quiet.”
When Oxford University Press releases “My Dark Horses” next month, it will be Hollander’s first full-length collection of poems to receive major publication in the U.S.
The official launch will take place at the Tattered Cover Book Store on Sept. 9 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., where Hollander will read from and sign copies of her work. The event is free and open to the public.
Hollander has established herself in the poetry world in England, earning major publication there long before Oxford University Press decided to pick her up for the U.S. market. Coming from a musical family, Hollander says the reason her poems have resonated more with over-the-pond publishers may lie in the rhythmic quality they possess.
“I really focus on making each line sound musical, and the poem as a whole, and I think that might be an aesthetic value of the British,” she said. “That’s my best guess, anyway.”
“My Dark Horses” focuses on Hollander’s upbringing in a family of classical musicians. Oxford University Press called it a beautifully-structured and compelling debut.
“Always alert to the surreal comedy of the human condition, these powerful and immediate poems chart with huge passion, musicality and insight a complex journey towards familial understanding and reconciliation,” reads the publisher’s blurb.
A WORK OF CATHARSIS
Hollander and her husband, Aaron Mayville, moved to Eagle County in March of 2014 when Mayville, a U.S. Forest Service employee, was hired as the Deputy District Ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, based out of Minturn.
Hollander was in the process of writing “My Dark Horses” at the time.
“The focus was really about my relationship with my mom, who was a professional cellist and died of pancreatic cancer in 2010,” Hollander said. “The book follows a really complicated relationship between mother and daughter with the backdrop of classical music.”
Hollander said her mother wouldn’t have necessarily enjoyed the work.
“If she was alive I don’t think I would have published these poems,” Hollander said. The most frequent comment I get after a reading, is usually a woman who comes up to me and whispers in my ear ‘I had a crazy mom too, I’m so glad someone’s writing about it.”
Hollander said she thinks the subject matter will appeal to anyone who has a strained relationship with a member of their family, and for how common that is, it’s hard to find modern writing that explores that theme.
“Family’s tough, and I think it’s something that should be written about more, and more open and honestly,” Hollander said.
MORE ON THE WAY
Getting picked up by a major book publisher isn’t easy, especially for poets, and even more so in 2017. For many, the deal would come with a side of expectations — from oneself or said publisher — for more work, but for poets, said Hollander, the pressure is off.
“We don’t earn very much money,” she said with a laugh. “So poets aren’t put on the same kind of time frame that a novelist may be put on, so it’s not like the publisher is saying you’d better get out another collection or we’re going to drop you.”
Nevertheless, Hollander has put her own brand of pressure on herself to do more writing now, while she has the ear of those who will enjoy “My Dark Horses.” After achieving catharsis regarding her family through the writing of the poems in that collection, Hollander intends to draw from her time living in Australia with Mayville from 2010 to 2012 in her next work.
“I found the aboriginal dreamtime mythology to be so interesting while I was there,” she said.
Some research will come into play, but for the most part, publishing her next collection will simply require good old fashioned contemplation. For that, some quiet time in nature on a snowy winter morning is the best working conditions Hollander can hope for.
“So just like everybody else around here, I’m hoping for some powder days,” she said.