Words & Music by Lo Galluccio
The Alewife July 07, 2005
My featured poet for July is Coleen T. Houlihan. Coleen’s first chapbook of poems, “Desire’s Burn” has as its centerpiece a passionate fable she based on a Hans Christian Anderson story, The Little Mermaid. The poem’s called “The Human Heart” and is both lyrical and powerful – about a mermaid who trades with a witch her voice for human legs. A tragic love story, its initiation came after a Tori Amos concert, from which Coleen says she left feeling both “empty and inspired.” As it happens, a few days ago, Coleen won a contest over the radio, and the chance to meet Amos in person. She asked Tori what advice she would give herself now as a teenager looking back. At first stumped, she went on for about ten minutes and transfixed Coleen who was able—in a basket of treats in honor of Tori’s latest CD—to slip “This Human Heart” to the singer who gave it to her assistant and said, “Make sure I read this.” And so, as fate would have it, two mythical and ultra-feminine women meet face to face and Coleen’s poem comes full circle.The following is one of Coleen’s many poems –she’s written about 300 by her count—and one that struck me because of it’s wisdom and savagery. It shows hoshows how she can transform a scene, and let it transform her; in this case a circus of elephants who become like a vision out of Edgar Allen Poe or Salvador Dali.
(See poem The Elephants on Poetry page.)
Aside from her chapbook of poems, Coleen’s also finished a novel called, “The Bull Sometimes Wins.” She considers herself somewhat of a late bloomer (as Wellesley College had no creative writing program at the time she attended) but a writer in her soul nevertheless. She’s always been attracted to the darker/underside – what might not be considered “normal”—and likes to put what might seem strange or surreal into a somewhat normal context to illuminate something true and to jolt the reader. She also insists on including the realm of the feminine in what she writes in both subtle and more obvious ways. Like Anne Sexton, she aspires to write for non-poets, like a maverick and eschews the tribal division between academic poets and non-academic ones.Coleen, a striking woman with silver bangles in braided hair can be found at some of the local Boston/Cambridge readings such as Stone Soup, and the Open Bark, both at Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge. I’m sure we will be seeing and reading much more from her in the near future.