Westfield State English Instructor Rebecca Olander hosted a book launch and poetry reading for her first full-length poetry collection on Oct. 28.
Olander’s book, Uncertain Acrobats (CavanKerry Press, 2021), is a collection of intimate poems that display the struggle against grief (resulting from the death of a parent) and the shared journey of a dying father and his adult daughter to find balance again. These poems arc across a terrain of divorce, family, childhood, coming of age, mortality, and deep, abiding love, always landing with a foothold in the genuine.
“I am thrilled to introduce my first full-length poetry collection to the world, and I was especially honored to do a book launch reading for Westfield State that featured my former Writing Poetry students “opening” for me by each reading a poem,” said Olander. “By the time a book comes out, the poems have been written for some time, so it was lovely to share the space with new poems by emerging writers I admire and to feel their support of my work in turn. It was a magical, unforgettable event.”
The virtual book launch, facilitated via Zoom, included an emotional book reading and poetry presentation that featured Olander’s former poetry students. The students who presented their poetry were: Waleed Azad, Abby Bradley-Gilbert, Marynna DaSilva, Lindsey Daniele, Brendan Rooney, Kamber Sorel, Lindsay Stenico, Jill Tully, and Hailee Wallace.
Throughout the event, students expressed their love and pride for Olander’s accomplishments.
“Uncertain Acrobats is in many ways about one of the things we all share, which is the experience of death and dying,” Olander explained. “We will all face this ourselves, and we all have to confront the loss of our beloved elders as we move through life. But my book is also about love: imperfect, evolving, sustaining in life, and, ultimately, outlasting death. Though my book is centered around my relationship with my father and the process of his dying and my grief, I think it will speak to all who have loved and lost and are doing the human work of navigating through that as gracefully, and gratefully, as we can.”
Uncertain Acrobats is available for purchase online.