Tag Archives: Turning Inside Out

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sandra Kolankiewicz

The Acrobat

Of course you are terrified,
your breath gone, heart in your ears
like a dull adz thumping the branch
you can’t split, that pins
your joy to the ground,
torn from the tree that you climbed
the day you first learned
you had wings.

Certainly all admired your fix
on the view, the fierce
flesh about to leap at the horizon
as if you were a performer up so high
none of your spangles were scratched,
legs had no dimples,
no skin sagged below the shimmering hide
that was markless and boneless
in its apparent strength.

You see it now, don’t you?
How each soul at the end
of a telephone tether
gasped when you tried to fly?
When you turned into a third person
and sat with them, watching yourself
arch toward the void, missing
your mark, no net but a forest below,
and you, surprised by real trees that met in
true notches that, plunging,
you cracked until you found
the moss-covered floor.

Here you lie,
finally afraid because you survived
and can consider it now
while you wait, first, for the ambulance
and, then, for the ones who forever show up late,
except for the undertaker who always arrives
the moment your heart gives out to metaphorical thrombosis,
or the symbolic blocked carotid artery
bursts up through your ear drum,
or that one little blood clot in your lung
emblematically shakes loose as a result
of the fall and the oomph of the ouch, in spite of the fact
you can still wiggle your toes
and nothing is broken.

Soon you will realize
the most important tissue is connective,
and that, of whatever is left for you,
suppleness will be mandatory,
the ability to stretch, reach,
maintain required even there
on your back in the forest leaves
from last summer, your sinews
holding the disparate parts of the body together,
like the clavicle, for instance,
which, with the small, stacked vertebrae,
is the only support for your neck
besides the damp ground
where you sprawl and
hope while they are not coming
and instead are still looking for you in the sky.

Poem first appeared in the inaugural print edition of Red Ochre Lit, Oct 2011.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: I usually hear a first line of something and scribble it down if I’m not near a computer.  I take it as far as I can and then try to shape it.  At some point I start trying on different forms so that it can grow into what it is supposed to be. If I’m not careful, I’ll edit the first effort so much that I lose whatever spark it had–so I try to save various drafts just in case I go too far and ruin it by thinking too much.

Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?
A: I just love Robin Skelton’s The Shapes of Our Singing.  I am blown away by his scholarship on poetic forms and also by the fact that he composed all of the examples, which is an extraordinary achievement.  In my dreams I do what he does so fluidly that no one notices the form.
Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the  world, where would you travel?
A: A morning when I get up at 5 and write while everyone is asleep, a time when I am so into what I am writing that I forget who and what I am, and all that matters is the energy I feel through creating.   If everyone would just stay asleep an hour longer some Saturday dawn when I’m really grooving on a poem–that would be a writing vacation!
Sandra Kolankiewicz’s stories have been published widely in journals.  Her chapbook Turning Inside Out won the Fall 2007 Black River Chapbook Competition, and her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel in 2008.  She teaches Developmental English at West Virginia University Parkersburg.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sandra Kolankiewicz

Voyage of the Ambien Eater

Don’t say you never do it or something
like it—up and sleeping through cup cakes with

mustard sauce,  crunching pasta right out of
the box.  Before that, you whipped out credit

in inappropriate places, confessed
to strangers about your noble uncle’s

club foot, buddied Jim and Jack. You knew each
late night pitch man, in fact believed them all,

tried to colon cleanse but survived just one
week.  Who can swallow so many herbs?  Though

you’ve joined the lotus eaters, you still don’t
rest, typing in your pass word en route to

meeting with a big shot’s one-eyed son, then on
to face the Sirens after palace life.

Who knows what will turn up in your Sent Mail,
under your trolling history, on your

caller ID, slaughtering what cow, the
counter a mess after you’ve descended

at midnight to hear Agamemnon on
his wife, Tantalus on thirst, Sisyphus

pushing his load even over a meal
as you eat your way back to those who wait.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: I have a tendency to scribble on whatever piece of paper I can find when an idea comes to me.  I used to work in what I called “The Fort,” which is a little writing corner I made in my attic, but I seem to be using the laptop in the kitchen these days when I am putting something into manuscript form.
Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?
A: The first poem that blew my mind was “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, which I read probably when I was in middle school.  Until then, I thought poems were little ditties that rhymed.
Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?
A: The most interesting thing that has happened to me in the past 12 months is that I became a crone.
Sandra Kolankiewicz’s stories have been published widely in journals.  Her chapbook Turning Inside Out won the Fall 2007 Black River Chapbook Competition, and her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel in 2008.  She teaches Developmental English at West Virginia University Parkersburg.

Sandra Kolankiewicz Reads In Ohio This Weekend

Sandra Kolankiewicz, Black River Chapbook Competition winner and author of Turning Inside Out, will read as part of the Evergreen Arts & Humanities Series this Saturday, November 6th, at 8 PM. Here’s the info:

About the Series

The Evergreen Arts & Humanities Series is poised to bring another year of quality programs that highlight locally, nationally and internationally acclaimed lecturers and performers to the Washington State Community College campus and the community at large. The Series strives to bring variety, diversity, information and entertainment to their audiences while remaining committed to programming appropriate for all ages and interests.

The Event

Nov. 6, 2010: An Evening with Creative Women of the Mid-Ohio Valley
Lecture: 8 p.m.
Poets Dr. Christina Veladota and Dr. Sandra Kolankiewicz and authors Nancy Pansing Wyman and Megan Krivchenia will read selections from their latest works in celebration of their recent publications.


Washington State Community College
710 Colegate Drive
Marietta, OH 45750


A Book That Deserves To Be Known

We’d like to thank the good people over at Neon for the review of Turning Inside Out by Sandra Kolankiewicz. Turning Inside Out won the Fall, 2007 Black River Chapbook Competition. Here’s a section from the review, written by J.S. Watts:

The poems in Turning Inside Out are searching, atmospheric, at times disquieting and always riveting. This is a book that deserves to be known and not kept a secret as seems to be the fate of many poetry collections.

You can read the entire review here.

Turning Inside Out is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon. You can also order it at your local bookstore.

From the Refrigerator into the Fire

Sandra Kolankiewicz, author of Turning Inside Out, has published a piece in Quiet Mountain Essays. The essay, “From the Refrigerator into the Fire: Why I am like a MADD Mother”, is about her experiences raising an autistic son.

You can read the essay here.

These Are Earned Offerings

There is a new review of Turning Inside Out by Sandra Kolankiewicz in Quiet Mountain Essays. In the review, Suzanne Sunshower writes:

In each offering of this slim volume, Kolankiewicz seems to take a big bite out of some past life. She then mulls it over carefully, making a few judgements along the way. A reader has the feeling that this author has lived many lives (or at least a few), and has survived them all, intact, to tell their tales. These are earned offerings…

You can read the entire review here.

Turning Inside Out won the Fall, 2007 Black River Chapbook Competition. It is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sandra Kolankiewicz


At nearly four in the morning
I realized the house was singing
like a vibrating wire, as if someone
were strumming a string, a distant
melody I couldn’t quite hear
or ignore, as though the heavens were calling to me,
brightness of snow glaring through the window,
the cold air outside on fire.

Somewhere a planet was spinning as it turned a wide arc
through the blackness—
out beyond the low, dense clouds
hanging over the valley—
in spite of the steam
rising up from the chimneys,
the squirrels sleeping in the walls, the bats
silent in the eaves—

only that music in my head when all was quiet,
when the noise of the day turned from the night
toward the dawn, before the thrumming
and beating of persons in hallways, the rustling of papers,
clicking of keys, the car motors idling
in parking lots—in that moment prior
to the easing of the break, the pressure on the pedal,
the hands on the wheel.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: The time was around 4 in the morning, and I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I had fallen asleep reading to my son, and my husband must have turned off the light in the room.  I lay there, listening to my son breathe, and the house as it  made a strange singing sound that was probably the response of its old clapboards to the 10 below weather outside.  The blind in the room was down, but in spite of that covering, there was so much snow in the yard that any light outside was reflected, and the window appeared lit from beyond.  I decided that I could either just think about writing a poem, or I could get out of bed and write one–so I threw on an old sweater, went into my daughter’s room to watch her sleep for a moment, then went upstairs to what I call ‘The Fort’ and wrote the poem.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: I recently acquired all of Black Lawrence Press’s poetry titles, and they are all so fantastic that they encourage me to commit the sincerest form of flattery and imitate them.  Any time of day or night, I pick up one of the books, read a poem or two, put it down, and pick up another book by a different author.  Such a range of voices!  Beyond that, the book 1491 made me write a few poems in response to its subject matter.  There was also an article in National Geographic about lungfish that inspired me.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: Rice and beans with diced avocado.  My husband and daughter would answer ‘steak.’  My son likes nothing better than pizza.

Sandra Kolankiewicz is the Fall 2007 winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition with her manuscript Turning Inside Out, available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.

Back to Poetry: An Interview with BR Chapbook Competition Winner Sandra Kolankiewicz

Sandra Kolankiewicz, author of the Black River Chapbook Competition-winning Turning Inside Out, was interviewed by The Marietta Times this week. In it, she talks about returning to poetry after a fifteen year affair with fiction, revisiting poems that she’d written almost two decades ago, and the experience of winning awards for her poems after such a long hiatus in her career as a poet. She also discusses the benefits of publishing with a small press and offers advice to other writers. You can read the whole interview online by following this link.

Turning Inside Out, $9.00, is available from the Black Lawrence Press website.

Turning Inside Out

Turning Inside Out by Sandra Kolankiewicz, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, is now available from Black Lawrence Press.

About the Book

There’s very little that is off limits for Sandra Kolankiewicz. In person and in her poems, she’ll give you the whole story: the bad and good parts, no matter how aching, how intimate. In 2005, she returned to poetry after more than two decades focusing on other genres. She had good reason to abandon poetry. Shortly after learning that she was going to be published for the first time, the editors who had chosen her poem asked for a meeting during which, line by line, she was asked to justify her work. Unsatisfied with her answers, the editors pulled her poem from the publication schedule. Sandra packed away all of her poems and turned to fiction.

Twenty-five years later, a constellation of events caused her to rethink her relationship with poems. A dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, quickly deteriorated, and died. It became clear that her son, who is autistic, was not going to make the much-prayed-for miraculous recovery and that she would have to leave her job at the college where she had worked for over a decade in order to care for him. There were two wars on the television. Her parents were aging. Sandra didn’t have time for fiction. But she knew that she had to write, so she returned to poetry. “Anwar Sadat’s Wife’s Lover”, one of the poems in Turning Inside Out, was written the weekend that she saw her friend for the first time after his diagnosis. “Gleaning” was written after he died. Turning Inside Out is a collection of new poems, written in 2005 and later, and old ones that had been in storage since the early 80’s. Shortly after putting the book together, it won the Black River Chapbook Competition.

Turning Inside Out is a book that follows the acrobatics of one’s emotional movements when it seems impossible to decide which is worse: the self or the world. It can also read as an index for how and when poems are essential, how and when they can save a life.

About the Author

Sandra Kolankiewicz has a BA and PhD from Ohio University and attended the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. Her collection of stories Con/sequential Monologues was a finalist for the 2007 Spokane Prize, the 2007 Tartt’s First Prize, the 2008 Hudson Prize, and the 2008 and 2009 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for short fiction at BkMk Press. Her collection entitled Isla was a finalist for the 2007 Hudson Prize and the 2008 St. Lawrence Prize. Her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the 2008 Hackney Award for the novel from Birmingham Southern and was a finalist for the 2008 George Garrett Prize from Texas Review Press. She currently teaches English at West Virginia University Parkersburg and is active in the autism recovery community.

Advance Praise

The poems in Turning Inside Out are not poems from the Ivory Tower, nor from the rich and famous.  These are poems made from the grit and grind, from the pain and joy of the ordinary struggle, but it is ordinariness taken to a larger level–one that makes Kolankiewicz’s poems vital and important.  These are poems that demand to be read.
–Robert Kinsley, author of Fieldstones

The speakers who inhabit the poems of Turning Inside Out are, at turns, irreverent, sassy, and somber.  What they share is disengagement from a world they can no longer safely navigate, from landscapes–exterior and interior–that time and circumstance have rearranged.  Landmarks may remain familiar, “But where to go from there?”  Agency is compromised, desire thwarted.  What becomes of such contemporary disorientation lay at the heart of this promising first collection by Sandra Kolankiewicz.
–John Hoppenthaler, author of Lives of Water and Anticipate the Coming

Title Poem

Turning Inside Out

I would do if I could,
turn my eyes inward yet keep
that other half still

unknown to me, my constant companion,
just the distance of skin away,
but this time on the outside,

glistening into the dry air,
a steaming colander of
hot, red organs,

pushed with their membranes
from one universe
into another.

Meanwhile, now on the inside,
nice and dark though somewhat
suffocated and thoroughly,

gratefully, unable to see,
I remember the world—
glowing—the way my arms

and legs moved me though space,
how I orbited other
bodies, other spheres, other

more complicated shapes.
The blackness is anaerobic now.
Air would kill me.

Please contact Diane Goettel at diane@blacklawrencepress.com for media inquiries and review copies.
Sandra Kolankiewicz is available for readings and speaking engagements.

Turning Inside Out is available from Black Lawrence Press. You can order a copy by clicking on this link.