Double-Showcase: Interview & Review | on behalf of “Anything That Happens” (a #poetry collection) by Cheryl Wilder

Posted Thursday, 29 April, 2021 by jorielov , , 6 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I have been hosting for Poetic Book Tours for a few years now, where I am finding myself encouraged to seek out collections of poetry or incredible fiction being published through Small Trade publishers and presses. I have an Indie spirit and mentality as a writer and I appreciate finding authors who are writing creative works through Indie resources as I find Indies have a special spirit about them. It is a joy to work with Poetic Book Tours for their resilience in seeking out voices in Literature which others might overlook and thereby, increasing my own awareness of these beautiful lyrical voices in the craft.

I received a complimentary copy of “Anything That Happens” direct from the author Cheryl Wilder in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I have a wonderful surprise for you – I’m featuring both a review and an interview with the poet Cheryl Wilder. This is an interesting collection of poetry as the poet is exploring a particular moment in her life where something happened which affected the rest of the hours which came next – how tragedy and circumstances can affect us on a soul level and how we choose to transition through gut-wrenching circumstances can sometimes make or break how we enter the future.

We’ve all gone through hard circumstances at some point in our lives – we’ve all have had things happen which shake up our understandings about life and for some of us, we’ve been in accidents on highways which happened before we could process what happened at all. I still remember when my parents and I were in a car accident out of state and how blessed we were to walk away from it. It is not something I’ve mentioned in the past and I rarely speak of it IRL – it was a footnote on that one particular road trip and a humbling moment of awakening realisation on the other hand. There are moments we plan in life and then, there are unexpected moments which seek to teach of us something even if we never knew we signed up for the lesson.

In this collection of poetry, I knew I was going to be exploring raw emotions attached to the circumstances surrounding the poets experiences with the car accident and the after effects that accident had on her life due to the circumstances which followed. I elected to talk about certain sections of the collection in my interview with Ms Wilder as well as comment about the collective threading of these circumstances in the collection which I felt told the greater story and held within those passages the heart of ‘Anything That Happens’.

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You’ve taken your experiences and have cleverly tucked them into poetic stories which tell pieces of your own story but let the reader fill in the unspoken bits as well. How did you sort out how to thread the tragedy into the confluence of poems which creates the backbone of Anything That Happens?

Wilder responds: I put the book through many iterations of order. Up until the last draft, I had themes that didn’t make the final cut. Once I refined the story, I figured out how I wanted readers to enter and exit the book. The car crash, which was the trauma that underlay all other events, made a natural frame for the collection.

Photo Credit; Cheryl Wilder

Photo Credit: Cheryl Wilder

I knew the “Slipped” poem series had to be in the beginning, to introduce the crash. But, how to end? I wanted to bring readers into the experience while being careful to not overwhelm their emotions. I decided an arc was the best way to accomplish my goals. The poems about being my mom’s caregiver were also heavy, so I put them in the second half. (My editor, Tom Lombardo, suggested the section break before introducing the “Mom” poems.) After that, I placed poems in the collection by considering how the other themes fit into the arc.

I felt you had a natural rhythm and pace within this collection – as this is how I interpreted the order of the poems myself as a reader and how I saw this hidden patterning of how the poems were organised. Being my father’s caregiver for the past five years since he survived his stroke, I can sympathise with others who are carers for their parents and/or other loved ones, too. I felt the anchours were the “Slipped” series but you had such a wonderful cadence of honesty about how interconnected the trauma of that sequencing had an overlap effect on the rest of your life, too. And, how transparent you left your emotions and your thoughts in the poems themselves was truly quite the impact on us who were reading your stories.

You’ve mentioned poetic imagery and language as cornerstones of what renew as a writer. How do you find writing poetry allows you to connect to a reader and merge your vision into their own understanding of what you’ve written? What draws you into poetry in other words and how does the fusion of what you write into a poem become a vessel of thought others can find tangible in their own lives?

Wilder responds: I was drawn to poetry by its power to “say the most with the least amount of words.” My parents weren’t great communicators. As a child, I had a lot to say and didn’t know how to say it. There are many forms of expression, but I hungered for language. I found my path through lyric poetry.

Art is a reflection of the world. If a poem is doing its work, it is holding a mirror up to the reader. One way I create the mirror, or vessel, is by writing to the unknown reader, preferably someone 100 years in the future. I want the person to get something from the poem that has nothing to do with me. It may sound counter-intuitive, especially since my collection is personal, but I worked to rid the poems of me “the writer.” When I accomplish that, the poem is what’s left. And if I’ve done my job, it serves as a mirror to the world.

Another angle is to look at form. I think the lyric form draws readers into it. The form is sparse in language and there’s a lot of white space. I see white space as an invitation for readers to become part of the poem—to fill in the blanks. Line breaks do some heavy lifting here. For example, when I finish reading a line, I can insert my experiences—words and images—before moving on, even if it’s subconscious. The line, and the break that ends the line, allow me to be inside the. I suppose this is how a poem can also be a vessel. I try to create this same kind of space for my readers. Yes, walk in my shoes for a while, but at the same time, I hope you’re reflecting on the shoes you’re walking in.

I find everything I read has a way of looping back into my own personal experiences and how I’ve interpreted the world up until the moment I’ve reached inside the poem(s) I am reading. We all interpret what we read differently and choose to take a journey into what we read differently, too. Some stay on the outside fringes of what they read but I’ve always taken a more personal approach – to truly feel and experience what is being shared on page and in effect, this carried over to visual storytelling outlets as well. Whenever I see a film, I become whomever the lead character is and walk through their journey as if I had lived it myself. I love how you used the mirror effect to explain your writerly legacy and how the words we leave behind cast a reflection both the world at large and on the hours we’ve spent living ourselves. Language and stories irregardless of their format to express ourselves is a wonderful way of uniting both distance and time but also a mutual respect for further exploring our own humanity and the curious ways in which life itself is a pursuit of enlightenment.

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Double-Showcase: Interview & Review | on behalf of “Anything That Happens” (a #poetry collection) by Cheryl WilderAnything That Happens
Subtitle: Poems
by Cheryl Wilder
Source: Author via Poetic Book Tours

A debut poetry collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance.

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows Wilder’s journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with... and even respect.

Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography / Autobiography, Motherhood | Parenthood, Poetry & Drama

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1-950413-33-1

Published by Press 53

on 25th March, 2021

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 82

Published by: Press 53 (@Press53)

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Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #NonFiction, #Autobiography and #Poetry Drama
& #CherylWilder and #AnythingThatHappens

About Cheryl Wilder

Cheryl Wilder

Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens, a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection (Press 53, 2021), a collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press, 2017), explores the frailty and necessity of human connection.

A founder and editor of Waterwheel Review, Cheryl earned her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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One of the beautiful things about being able to interview poets and writers, is being able to hug closer to their journey as a creator and to peer into their processes as each of us who create stories out of words has a different path into that creative sphere. When I first received a copy of this collection, I wasn’t sure how to approach it as I knew there was going to be a lot of heavy hitting sections – from the trauma of the crash to the overwhelmingly emotional aftermath it would naturally cause – I was at first unprepared for how to approach this as I was currently going through a very difficult month IRL. Sometimes I shy away from layered dramas if I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed personally but there was such a wonderful hidden pattern of choice and purpose to the ways in which this collection was arranged, I found myself naturally drawn into certain poems over others. I even skipped ahead – moving past some of the poems to get further into the ‘Slipped’ sequences and of course, being a caregiver myself I noted the familiarity with those poems as well.

Each poet approaches how to collect their poems differently and being a poet and a writer myself – I am wicked fascinated by how each of us finds a different fuell behind what motivates us to both poetically create and visually paint through fictional worlds.

In the title poem ‘Anything That Happens’ – you hear a voice questioning the merits of what was known against the reasons why people were thankful to hear the good news out of the tragic. It is a poem which tries to identify a singular moment in one’s life and yet, find the truth betwixt and between the words themselves. To see the event through others’ eyes and to question how ‘anything that happens’ can be reasoned and understood at all when nothing seems to make sense anymore the moment life felt as if it had derailed. This is the first time the crash is mentioned and sets off a series of introspective and interpersonal poems reflecting that experience from different points of entrance as they cohesively move you forward and through that experience.

‘Slipped 1′ is a microstory about how two girls’ who had a wicked good night out together made a fatal mistake about driving and both their lives were altered afterwards. In this microseism of memory – we see how easily it was to ‘slip’ from living life in the ‘now’ and being carefree about one’s choices to how quickly one choice can derail into a life altering trauma which would have far reaching effects than the one singular event itself. You can feel the emotions as much as the joy they had shared before the crash and in that moment, you understood how quickly life can escape from you and how hard you have to live with the choices you’ve made. Sometimes you don’t even realise the choices you’re making have a larger effect on others and how quickly all of us can be in a life threatening situation.

‘Slipped II’ explores the kind of anguish and shock you cannot expect to experience in life and yet, through living through a trauma like this car crash, you can immediately connect and sense how hard it was for Wilder to find her friend next to her and to be in that particular state of unconsciousness. You are locked into that memory – as if you are re-living it yourself through the film reel of your mind’s eye – noticing and remembering every detail as you had seen it originally. Without even fully processing what it all meant and how it could have even happened. As isn’t that part of the purpose of this collection? To discuss about unthinkable events and the impossible nature of our humanity to accept the things we cannot change during a moment in our lives where on singular event was like a chainsaw slicing our life into two separate halves where we didn’t feel fully whole afterwards.

By ‘Slipped III’ you can feel the vacuum of personal acceptance of the crash itself and the emptiness of dissolved identity – as you felt in that moment, Wilder was trying to rectify whom she had been against the person she was ‘now’. The crash effectively was like an earthquake which sought to both destruct the normalcy of her life and to paint a different impression about who she was as a person – almost as if part of whom she had been was instantly erased and replaced by someone else she almost didn’t or couldn’t recognise. There is this vacuuming of our spirit – where we are shocked by trauma or by circumstances out of our control – where life spins us so hard and fast that we cannot filter out the noise and can only embrace the chaos of what is leftover.

The poem ‘Speak of Crossroads’ felt like the final chapter of reflection on the crash and the legalities thereafter. Of a woman rising through the adversities of that moment and seeking a path forward where light and hope could encompass her future. It is also a sombering poem about how even when you hope for the best, you’re sometimes surprised by the outcomes which seek you instead.

There are other poems included in this collection which were hard for me to read as I had a completely different experience growing up – similar to how I felt challenged by reading Arisa White’s ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ recently – this collection also challenged me because although I know my close-knit family isn’t how everyone else was raised, it is still hard to read and hear about how others grow up in a harder environment than the one I had myself. Poetry can dive into those memories in a way a fiction story might not be able to penetrate and that is one reason why poetry I have felt speaks to a different layer of understanding than a novel or short story. They are connected through the art of telling stories but its how those stories translate to us in their variant forms of expression which sometimes makes the difference.

Wilder fuses her past with her present in a kaleidoscope of memories and experiences which bank against a lifetime of personal interpretation of her life’s story. She draws you closer to moments which still ignite a purpose to be told and to be re-examined through her poems which cast a different light on the grip they’ve had on her memories whilst honing in on specific time blocks of her life which re-ignite the most out of her collective timeline.

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And now our concluding bits of the conversation:

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When I first saw the title of your poetry collection, I knew the title lent to a harder look at what motivated the collection itself. It didn’t surprise me where the title originated because I felt this particular collection was a self-journey towards a path being walked towards self-forgiveness and self-acceptance of a circumstance beyond your control. How did fleshing out the event and your emotions into the poems lead you to a transitional moment of ‘letting go’ of what you couldn’t control and reflect on what happened through a new lens of understanding?

Wilder responds: I’m constantly looking up words to find their root meaning. How words are first formed feeds some desire to find a core, a beginning, some clean base that I can work from as someone whose art is language. When I looked up the word “accident” in my dictionary, and the first definition was “anything that happens,” I knew why “accident” never gave me solace. In tragedy, we seek answers. “Anything that happens” is not an answer.

I studied letting go, accepting mortality and its disorder, before I started writing poems about the crash. My self-preservation demanded it. When I was ready, I started with details to capture poignant moments. I’m not sure there was a threshold where I “let go.” Instead, I became accustomed to examining dualities like they were balanced on a pan scale (e.g., chaos and order; holding on and letting go; right and wrong.) Revision is decision-making. By tinkering, I chose words, line breaks, rhythm, (and more) that moved the scale. Making stylistic choices is an act of letting go. One of the hardest things to learn is what not to include in a poem. The more I saw my story on the page, the clearer it was to see a path forward. A breakthrough came when I intertwined the crash with other parts of my life (e.g., “Note to Self”). The crash had previously been in a silo, separate from everything else. I needed to remove the silo and incorporate the experience as one of many in my life. I went to a cognitive behavioral therapist to help. For the first time, I saw myself and my friend beyond the traumatic event.

I have been a seeker of words myself since I was quite young – as words and their definitions have always fascinated me as much as the meaning behind our names. There is an instinct I think in us to seek out better understand for how words are tangible evocators and how we use them speaks a bit about ourselves as much as the words unite a vision to others about what we want to express. I can see why the definition was not the best fit for you and why this title said more than what people might first realise. I definitely saw how the crash and your life took two different paths in the beginning before the crash re-merged with your timeline to be inclusive rather than extracted. I think that is also a coping mechanism in ourselves – a way of preserving what we cannot resolve and to give us time to heal and recovery from something that truly is hard to accept on a soul and heart level of understanding.

In your poem “Ways of Leaving” – the incredible raw honesty of a daughter reacting to the disconnections and absences of their father in their lives and how history can repeat itself in different ways of influence is quite powerful. The concept of not feeling as if one is rooted to any particular place and how disconnections in both trust and family can have after effects later on was expertly expressed. How did you develop the pace and feel of this poem and others which feel more like expressions of living history as if you were conversing with us by voice rather than by poem?

Wilder responds: I love your description: “expressions of living history.” To layer the generations of my family, I turned to what was passed down to me. Specifically, themes that I struggled with in my early twenties: abandonment, (lack of) communication, caregiving, home. Part of me hoped I could understand my father’s absence through writing. I didn’t get there. Writing did help me connect deeper with my mom by looking close at our similarities instead of our differences. I also wanted to learn how to be a parent. When my eldest son was born, I became aware that my choices would shape his childhood. That was frightening, especially because I was vulnerable and shame-ridden. It was also liberating, because it meant I could be there for him in a way my parents weren’t for me. Perhaps the voice you hear is me having a conversation with my family history. I never thought about it like that before, but it makes sense. There’s conversations I never had that I wish I could. And those conversations, with their inherent back and forth, coupled with the on-page attempt to connect the dots in my family history, steered the pace of the poem.

I grew up with living history stories in my family – though, in retrospect as an adult, I can see there are some gaps in the stories but I’m just thankful for the ones I have as their quite dear to me. This was why as I read reading your poems I noticed the curiously familiar pacing and delivery of your own life was being spun into expressing your living history through poetic drama and by eclipsing that experience for others through a dedicated pattern of delivery. I felt you were speaking to your past as if it were still alive and the past was speaking back through your poetry – you found a way to connect and continue a conversation out of your memory and all of it is a beautiful expression of life as it was both lived and how it was re-seen lateron.

Regret. Pain. Tragedy. Reflected Memories and an infusion of life as it evolved to be lived are the catalysts of your poems within Anything That Happens. From the title poem “Anything That Happens” which reflects upon the invisibility of youth and the tragic question mark about how the unthinkable can happen even without our ability to accept the ways in which it imprints a mark on our souls – to the poem “Resemblance” which is the acceptance of time and the gravity of loss. Your collection has infused a lifetime of living through your experiences and taken a raw and intimate portrait of your life to replay through poetic images how the life you’ve lived has affected your own humanity. How did you know the collection was complete and how do you select how to build a new collection from here? 

Wilder responds: Up until the last draft, I had the little voice in my head saying I wasn’t done. I wanted to be finished. But I knew it wasn’t there. Most of the poems were complete, but I shied away from exploring certain themes with more depth and expanse. In other words, the last revisions needed to take me, as a writer, into a new place—the last push that takes the work to a different level. I had worked on the book for so long, I wanted to feel surprised again. It’s similar to the process of writing a poem. I push a poem until it’s reached a new, surprising place, and then revise. All to say, I wanted to feel about the book like I did when I surpassed my expectations in a poem. I knew the collection was complete when I accomplished that goal.

Since Anything That Happens launched, I’ve been absorbing the feedback and engaging in great conversations (including this in-depth interview). It’s got me thinking about exploring self-forgiveness in the way the book explores shame. A lot of people ask me how I forgave myself. I have a lot of poems “in the drawer” that explore relationships with partners and friends, what it looks like to make family, to become whole, and to make a home. I’m very interested in the topic of home. Home as body. Home as place. Home as identity. I don’t know for sure, but maybe I’ll start by framing self-forgiveness into a collection and see where that takes me.

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I definitely picked up on your pursuit of ‘home’ – as it is threading through your poems as a whole – not just the home as you said we associate with our physical homes but the home as a concept and as an identifier as you’ve explained it yourself. Home can also reference the soul and the soul’s journey towards understanding its own interpretations of how we’ve lived our lives and how it tries to process our emotions and thoughts; home is also a safety net and a place of restoration. I think in part, your collection ‘Anything That Happens’ is also a journey of self-restoration – of restoring the past you could not change and building the future you weren’t sure you deserved.

I do think your next collection should be about self-forgiveness because I felt you had already started to take those steps through these poems now in ‘Anything That Happens’. You were already setting down the foundation for this and I think that would be a brilliant follow-up collection as it would anchour to this one in a way which would tell two different sides of a continuing journey.

Thank you for giving me such a lovely conversation and for sharing your story with us.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Poetic Book ToursFollow the blog tour for more readerly insights & reactions as well as guest features featuring Ms Wilder. Kindly support my fellow book bloggers & visit their blogs.

If you’ve missed ANY of my previous showcased poets

– from featured interviews & reviews

– kindly browse through my archives!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who picked up the same story to read.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 29 April, 2021 by jorielov in Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host, Dramatic Poetry, Indie Author, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Poetic Book Tours, Poetry, Vignettes of Real Life

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6 responses to “Double-Showcase: Interview & Review | on behalf of “Anything That Happens” (a #poetry collection) by Cheryl Wilder

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Wilder,

      Thank you for visiting my blog – I loved the ways in which you responded to my questions and for your understanding why I needed to create a double-feature for the tour; my health really knocked me out last month! :( Working on this for you and reading the stories you left behind in the collection was a little bit of light and joy for me during an adverse month.

      I’m thankful you enjoyed interacting with me as much as I had with you, too. Many blessings!

  1. Carolyn Steele

    Wonderful, insightful review, Jorie! Sometimes it’s hard to find the “take-away” in someone else’s poetry. It sounds like Ms. Wilder’s writing is very relatable, even though we’ve traveled different journeys.

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Steele,

      What an April, eh?! I am quite thrilled May has arrived. Thank you for responding to this review as it was a difficult one for me to write – similar in vein to how challenging I found Ms White’s collection. I definitely have always believed this myself – about we can all take positive things away by reading about other people’s experiences. We can feel empathy for what they’ve traversed through and we can identity their own personal struggles to reconcile the adversities of their lives; but more than that it is also a way to reconnect to our own humanity and celebrate how we deepen our understanding about life itself through our experiences and memories.

      I find poetry to be both evocatively raw and challenging to read as a reader due to the heavier topics and themes poets explore. In my own poetry, I tend to write lighter poetic prose than the ones I’ve read and reviewed. Which has led me to wonder if anyone else writes those kinds themselves? Very happy you stopped by for a visit and I hope your Spring has gone a bit better than mine. From the photography you’ve shared recently, I can tell you’ve had some wicked good hikes! If the heat and humidity here was non-existant I could do the same as I miss being out in nature.

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Cox,

      I have come to appreciate reading poetry to push myself as a reader to read harder more challenging texts but also to intuit out the fuller scope of what the poets themselves are trying to communicate through their prose. I am thankful we crossed paths and am blessed for the tours I am hosting with you as I have found such an illuminating journey into Poetry & Drama through hosting for Poetic Book Tours. I also try to seek a way to resonate my own thoughts/feelings/ruminations as I’ve read a piece to translate to my readers. To find a way to see if I can be an encouraging reader to help others seek out stories and poetry they might not have previously considered reading themselves. I find it fascinating especially how for every reader of poetry there are a lot of different doors to open through our readings.

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