Joan Hanna: We were so happy to have your poem, “The Crackhead’s Palindrome” appear in our MEN issue. This poem seemed rooted in personal experience. Can you give our readers a little history about the poem?
Catherine Owen: In 2007, my partner became a crack addict while I was away in Europe. When I returned and realized with deepening horror what had occurred, I began to write about his addiction while we were dealing with his recovery. He went away to his parents’ home for six weeks and in that time I wrote a whole manuscript of different form poems all dealing with crack in an attempt to purge and heal. The Crackhead’s Palindrome was one of these pieces formed by my desire to comprehend his addiction from the inside. The poem is now in my book of commemorative poems of him called Designated Mourner (for Chris Matzigkeit, 1981-2010).
JH: I loved this perspective of seeing it from the outside and understanding both the “he” and the “she” can you elaborate on this perspective?
CO: In every addiction, multiple relationships are usually at stake. In this case, I am engaged by the churning, whirling, and recursive mental processes in his brain as he hungers towards the solution to his addiction which ironically is “just another hit.” He was very close to me and so I think there was a part of him always believing I would be able to heal him, make these “demons” go away and by finding out, save him from himself. But the pronouns are deceptive. Is the she able to cure him or does she make things worse? It’s hard to say in an addicted state of being. I would say neither.
JH: I am fascinated that this poem takes us to so many places but seems to end where it begins. Can you discuss the construction of the poem?
CO: The palindrome is a form perfectly suited to expressing an addicted brain’s “thought” processes. It actually reverses in the middle and repeats itself backwards, making slight changes in syntax and meaning but regardless, ending up with the same “solution” to the problem: “Just one more hit.” The “Superman” or “Hercules” created by the addiction is elusive and damaging. And so the form is organic in how it takes the reader into that dead-end movement towards what has no real possibility of resolution.
JH: Please share with our readers any links to your website and/or other publications.
CO: I have a website at www.catherineowen.org. I have published nine collections of poetry to date and one of essays/memoirs. My blog is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of mine & Chris’s metal bands, Inhuman, can be listened to at http://inhuman2.bandcamp.
JH: Thank you so much for taking the time to share these links and discuss your poetry and the more personal aspects of your writing with r.kv.r.y. Just one final question: What does recovery mean to you?
CO: I used to have deep hope for my partner’s recovery and spent much time doing research on addiction and healing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t one of the ones who “made it.” Since his death in 2010, I have worked on my own recovery and that now means patience and the knowledge that whether it’s moving towards being clean or being free from constant grief, the path is not straightforward and sometimes it has to move through the darkness.
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