Frozen Latitudes

Frozen Latitudes

by Therese Halscheid

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941209127
Publisher: Press 53
Publication date: 11/01/2014
Pages: 90
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.22(d)

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Frozen Latitudes 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
BarbaraDaniels More than 1 year ago
Profoundly Moving Poems: Therése Halscheid’s Frozen Latitudes These powerful, deeply felt poems tell the story of a father who can’t speak and a daughter who at fourteen starves herself because as she says, “I am / that full of my father.” While her father was trapped in his dementia, Therése Halscheid became a nomad, living with an Eskimo tribe and completing a poet’s residency in Homer, Alaska. One of the great pleasures of the book is the way these two narrative strands are braided together. Without the movement between sacred tribal stories from Alaska and the poet’s father’s dementia, his story might feel too painful to bear. And without the father poems, the necessity and haunting truths of the Alaska poems would be less apparent. Throughout the book the poet examines omens, reading the lines in her mother’s palm and looking for a message in the clouds “against the blue notion of sky.” Because her father can’t speak, others speak for him and to him in poems scattered throughout the book. His damaged heart speaks. Rosary beads, the wind, and his own hand are given voices. “It is not ever over,” a wheelchair says in “Geriatric Chair,” but finally, it is over. In “Making a Path Called Charles” and “Aerial View” the poet’s father speaks though his life has ended. “Admit my life destroyed yours,” he says to his daughter. These poems are harrowing, yet Halscheid’s poems convey her questing spirit, courage, and generosity. Among the fruits of her suffering and nomadic life are spiritual insights. Like the lotus in “Enlightenment,” the poet had her “beginnings in dark places / at the very bottom of things,” where the stem’s “murky secret becomes its body’s truth.” The “white blossom” becomes “light itself, on the surface of water.” It is heartening to come upon stunning love poems, “The Open Book” and “The Asking.” Amid the despair, affection and desire bloom. Readers might want to read quickly for the gripping stories and the pleasures of leaping from one world to another and then read the book a second time, slowly, to appreciate the craft and mastery of the poems. The images are apt and memorable, and the varied poetic forms match the rich range of emotion and experience in the poems. These are mature poems, and this is the best of Halscheid’s books to date. In it the “self-starved child” travels great distances through time and space to learn difficult, necessary, compelling truths.
Miadyanah More than 1 year ago
It is a privilege to read Therese Halscheid's poetry and journey with her into the far and near reaches and distances of body, mind and spirit. She gives voice to suffering, to love, to release, and to life in this collection of beautifully crafted poems. With honesty and compassion, she speaks the unspoken on her father's decades of being alive with catastrophic dementia, which was the accidental result of heart surgery, and how an unending grief entered her, a bonding through illness with her father. She speaks with sensitivity and with courage, saying aloud what many keep secret. Paired with these offerings are poems of the Alaskan White Mountain Inupaq tribe who live and survive in their own world beyond time, living in the ever present, observing that, "...nothing come here without significance, that even the wind blows as God's breath."  Thank you, Therese for the poetic gift you have given to the world.
HARP31 More than 1 year ago
Review of Therese Halscheid’s poetry collection Frozen Latitudes by harp1522 Beautiful & Practical as Well: Frozen Latitudes is not only gorgeous poetry, it's also a prescription for those dealing with the pain of anorexia and/or dementia. Disclaimer: I am acquainted with Therese Halscheid. As noted in her biography, “for the past two decades, she has been house-sitting — caring for others’ homes and animals —while writing.” For several years, she cared for our beloved Australian Shepherd while we were away on trips and now she cares for our adored Havanese during our annual vacations. In all the years that I have known Therese, not once did she disclose to me the catastrophic event that befell her family of three — mother, father and daughter — when she was just a girl of fourteen. I learned about it for the first time while reading Frozen Latitudes, the extraordinary poetry collection she dedicated to her father. At age 49, Charles Halscheid entered the hospital for “routine” heart surgery and emerged severely compromised, both mentally and physically. Because of a lack of oxygen to his brain during the operation — what Therese refers to as the “error that occurred on the operating table “ — he was now partially blind, severely brain damaged and unable to control his physical movements. In the first of two poems entitled “Mother,” Therese imagines her mother having a revelation of the life-altering moment that occurred during the surgery at the exact moment it happened: And I have always thought her revelation happened the same moment an error occurred on the operating table, when her husband, my father, lacked oxygen long enough to erase from his memory the years he had with us: days with us, hours of our good life with him gone, his mind without Time. Throughout the collection, Therese empathizes with her mother and father — the two people whose pain is as great as her own — sometimes speaking for them, imagining what they must be feeling. In “Internal World: father’s view,” and “Wordless: moving into the Veterans Memorial Home,” she assumes the voice of her father, describing how he longs to speak again so he can tell his wife and daughter how much he loves them. From “Wordless”: at night, mistaken for mist, it will be me who moves gossimer-like, out of my self, beyond the ringlet of trees and the soldiers’ graves toward scenes that I dream of once more placing the name of my wife on my tongue name of my daughter — and in that place imagine what air would again hold if I could speak where I am, how I loved them. In the poem “Trash Day,” Therese speaks of the clouds she made “correctly” during the first year of her father’s dementia, asserting her right to respond as she does to his illness, by becoming anorexic: I am only fourteen. But you can tell I look old as if life is ending. Notice how my limbs droop so willow-like over the trash, see how the cans are all packed with food, know I am starving myself, I am that full of my father …” She talks about how others view her and her father in “The Walk Home”: Each day the curtains part from each home we pass and without clearly seeing them I can sense the widening eyes of mothers, I can feel their thoughts through the windows and it is all about the way my father and I look to them. It is about being late spring and the fact that he and I wear woolen coats and gloves as we are always cold, our lives so dark not even the sun can save us. It is about my looking less than human, brittle-boned, slumped, I am that thin — and certainly it is the sight of my father beside me who is near blind and brain damaged someone behaving in ways one might find in mental wards. In “Unsoundness of Mind,” Therese deals with her inability to talk about what she is feeling and of the strange being who is now her father, or rather, her not-father: Because I needed a father more than myself, because I cherished my father, I kept seeing things I could not say I kept not saying until it became important not to talk. This was after the life he lived had left his face This was each afternoon, after school, when the rooms of our house took me in through something loathsome and there was my father shape-shifting monsters, he was there with a horrid look, wearing fierce or faraway eyes. Eventually, her father’s behaviors, his confused memories and the aphasia, along with what Therese is feeling throughout these years — and long after her father’s death — are given the power of expression. And ultimately, it is through her words, through the strong visual images she creates in her poems, that she is able to release, the complex, complicated and confused emotions she has been experiencing in response to her father’s illness. Albert Murray, a jazz historian, novelist and non-fiction writer, made the following comment during an interview in the no-longer published American Heritage magazine: The social function of literature, of all art is to help the individual come to terms with himself upon the earth, to help him confront the deepest, most complex questions of life.” Finally, it is through her art, through powerful lyrical imagery in poem after poem about years of pain and suffering that Therese is able to “confront the deepest, most complex questions” of her life — to express that which she has endured (and continues to endure) these many years. And she does it in gorgeous poems, filled with sentiment but not sentimentality, poems completely devoid of self pity. Therese no longer suffers from anorexia and she has learned to deal with the searing pain that will always be part of her life, but is now less intense than it was during her adolescence and early adulthood. And when her mother was recently diagnosed with dementia, Therese, as always, turned to her art. Writing about pain and suffering doesn’t solve the problem that causes them; it simply enables one to express the feelings and emotions connected to them. For those experiencing early Alzheimer’s disease (and still cognizant of what they are losing), for those who are the caretakers of these victims, and for those suffering from anorexia, this book is a gift — of much greater value than any book one may find about dealing with dementia or anorexia in the self-help section of book stores or libraries. In addition to the many beautiful poems about her father, there is a whole other set of poems in Frozen Latitudes. They are the poems Therese wrote about her experiences living with the Inupiaq tribe on White Mountain, in the northern interior of Alaska. In these poems, she writes, not only about the Inupiaq’s love of their natural environment, but also of their struggle to deal with the hardships it presents. In the northern Arctic, which is covered with a vast blanket of snow, the sounds of silence are interrupted by sounds of significance. From “Phrases Strong and Perfect”: She said nothing comes here without significance, that even the wind blows as God’s breath shaking the willows, taking its leaves. She said what I said, that even dusk talks in long sentences of color; and in the final two verses: That is what the cold has taught. How the world is of words though no one is speaking how the days went as this day went, which has nothing to do with time. The absence of time that is connected to a clock is a recurrent theme in both the poems about her father (see excerpt above, “his mind without Time,” from the first of two poems entitled “Mother”) and the Alaska poems. In “Land of Time,” we read: In a place of always light or always dark, in the arctic north, there are no required hours, no hurry for the future and little thought of the past the present is one continuing moment — the body moves to natural rhythms, is fluid with seasons, living the way a river does This, Therese thinks, is also how her father experiences time, as one continuing moment. Still, so great is her need to have him remember her, to have him be her father again, that in the poem “Internal World,” assuming Charles’ voice, she speaks of “memories inside me” — memories of her and her mother that she imagines him having, of their life together before the “error occurred.” Later, in the poem about the Inupiaq tribe, we read: and it is like living without the clock you cannot schedule this part of the earth there is no passage of time, only change in the coming and going of moon, in the wind that blows freely from the cold outer edge of the world. During the early years of her father’s illness, time felt different to Therese, different from the way her neighbors and everyone else experienced it. As with the Inupiaq, who lived in a land where days and nights looked the same (“a place of always light or always dark”), Therese and her family were suspended in a kind of circular time as opposed to a time that moved forward, in a linear fashion. Therese Halscheid endured a pain that no young girl should, a pain sustained, worse than a death because death is finite. Unlike the 30-plus years of agony the Halscheid family has endured, a death’s mourning period has a beginning and an end. Frozen Latitudes is autobiographical; it is Therese Halscheid’s expression of her complicated complex emotions about her father’s illness and of her experiences on White Mountain, in Alaska. It is also a beautiful tribute to both her parents and to the Inupiaq tribe. This collection is a gem, an experience not to be missed — one that will have a profound and enduring impact on almost every reader/viewer. (I include the word “viewer” because Therese creates images that are clearly visible in the mind’s eye.)