In fits and starts over the past decade, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh English professor and poet Pamela Gemin penned her latest book of poetry, “Another Creature.”
The hours and days spent revising each poem reaped rewards this month, when Gemin was named a finalist in the inaugural Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize from the University of Arkansas Press.
“The poems have gone through so many incarnations, but the whole process of making a collection takes years and years, at least for me,” Gemin said.
The expansive poems follow a woman through both her mistaken and wise ways. “Most of the poems deal with looking back at one’s life from an evolved point of view, not as much with regret, as with awe and gratitude,” she said.
In the poem “Oh Honey,” Gemin writes in the first person about tending to her mother’s wounds:
Her chest is a railroad, honey-greased
tracks, sure engine of heartbeat pumping
heads of steam. On the white cloth,
I lather the soap, dab the incisions,
rinse the white cloth, then dab and rinse
again. I declare her shoulders mine
One reviewer, poet David Wojahn, described Gemin’s poetry as “quietly ferocious.” He said the collection explores the “essential strangeness that lies within the domestic.”
Gemin said, “I like that characterization because I have always wanted my work to dig under the sunny façades of the neighborhood and daily routines, especially in women’s lives.”
The creative process, she explained, started with writing the preliminary drafts at Ragdale, an artists’ residence in Lake Forest, Ill. During summer 2009, Gemin and her editor Enid Shomer worked on “the very close edits.”
“I always love coming home and doing the edits — the real work in the real world — where my family and career are,” she said.
Gemin, who teaches creative writing and poetry courses at UW Oshkosh, is the author of one other poetry collection, “Vendetta, Charms and Prayers,” and is the editor of three poetry anthologies.