Amy Pinkleberry fears she’s losing her mind. She hears voices, disparaging voices, telling her she can’t make it on her own, that the money her ex-husband gave her will run out, that she can’t land a job. She flees what looks like a promising job interview with a bank manager because the voices are eroding any shred of self-confidence she might have. Her ex-husband may be right; she may very well be crazy.
She’s been waiting for two weeks for the Amazon delivery of Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems by Maureen Doallas. In Amy’s mind, the book has become a lifeline to sanity, because poetry is the only thing that stops the voices. Yes, it may be obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yes, it may be auditory hallucinations, as the doctor suggests. But it was only Emily Dickinson who could stop the voices last year; this year, it’s Maureen Doallas. When she finally checks her order (what happened to two-day delivery?), Amazon shows it as delivered—to a house down the street.
Amy will find her book in that house down the street, and she will also find a lot more. The mis-delivery of Neruda’s Memoirs will fundamentally change Amy’s life and perhaps silence the voices as well.
Waiting for Neruda’s Memoirs by Laura Boggess is the novella telling Amy’s story. It is also a story of the power of poetry to transform, to heal, and to inspire. It’s a simple, sweet story of a young woman fearing mental illness, a young girl, an elderly woman dying from cancer, and that bank manager Amy flees in the interview. Most of all, it’s about poetry—how we read silently to ourselves and, more importantly, how poetry is meant to be read aloud, to oneself and others, helping to form and grow the bonds of relationship.
And it should be noted that Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems is a real book, and Maureen Doallas is a real poet living in suburban Washington, D.C.
Boggess works as a counselor at a medical rehabilitation center in West Virginia, where she focuses on individuals and families experiencing traumatic medical diagnoses. She is also the author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grownup World and two short novels in the Wings of Klaio series, Derek’s Story and Brody’s Story.
Waiting for Neruda’s Memoirs doesn’t tell a story about the healing power of poetry as much as it shows how it happens. Amy Pinkleberry knows it can heal her; what she comes to learn is how poetry can also change her life, help her find relationships, and even discover love.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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