Story about Seeking in Daily News

The talented Aaron Mudd has posted an article about Seeking the Other Side. I so enjoyed talking with him and appreciate his nuanced story about my poems.
Here’s the link, and pasted story…..

Professor’s poetry collection based on experiences

By AARON MUDD amudd@bgdailynews.com

For most people, loss is something to move past. But for Jane Olmsted, a Western Kentucky University professor, loss has been a wellspring of creativity.

Olmsted has recently released her first collection of poetry, based in part on the loss of her 20-year-old son Casey.

Casey, who was also a young father of a daughter, was shot to death in 2009. The third and final section of Olmsted’s “Seeking the Other Side” is titled the “The Casey Poems.”

“My attempt there is to … go into those places that are hard and hurt and are very sad,” she said. “But I hope that it’s in the end not a depressing thing even it’s tearful to read it, whether (for) me or someone else. I see it about healing. We’ve got to move out of whatever pain we’re in toward some kind of sense of joy.”

Connecting with the other side of things is the theme Olmsted takes for her book of poetry which spans two other sections: “Ways of Touching” and “Tree Forms.” The first section explores how sensory experience can lead to truth, and the second was inspired by trees she saw in the Rocky Mountains, which motivated her to either take on a tree’s persona in her poetry or use it as inspiration.

Mary Ellen Miller, a WKU professor in the Department of English, described Olmsted’s attention to nature as “poetically scientific” in a review of the book for the Daily News.

Miller further explained in an interview that Olmsted’s meticulous attention to natural details give her poetry “a kind of scientific cast” and described the approach as “penetrating” and “fresh.” Within Olmsted’s work, she said, there’s also an “affirmation of the indomitable in all of us.”

“She’s a poet for people who know poetry, but a lot of it would be accessible to anybody,” Miller said.

The other side, Olmsted said in a press release, “may refer to the line between life and death, between individuals, between parts of the self, like the lonely and social selves, or between the self before and after some cataclysm.”

Throughout much the collection Olmsted attempts to cross over into other perspectives. In a poem titled “The Shape and Size of Things,” Olmsted takes the perspective of a fist that wants to trade places with the heart, which are said to be comparable in size.

“A fist gnarled with rage, hungry for love, might think that a ball of flesh and bone could take up residence in this home, without causing a stir,” one stanza reads.

A painting by WKU Department of Art professor Yvonne Petkus, titled “Braced,” is used for the cover of the book. The painting conveys a person sitting against a rock facing the current of a rushing river.

Petkus said she was motivated to contribute to the book because the connection Olmsted drew between their work.

“I feel honored and moved that Jane thought of my work for this collection in particular,” she said in an email. “With such loss at the heart of much of the work, Jane doesn’t shy away from the powerful and, at times, raw feelings that have accompanied the loss of her son.”

Petkus described herself as a “process-driven artist” adding and subtracting from works until the result is both open and leading. She sees common ground between her work and Olmsted’s.

“We both use a kind of processing to sieve reality,” she said. “We both investigate loss and states of being and use nature and the body to speak of larger content.”

“Seeking the Other Side” is available on Amazon for $16.

— Follow Daily News WKU, county schools and general assignment reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter at twitter.com/aaron_mudd bgdn or visit bgdailynews.com.

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