An Introduction to Carolyne Van Der Meer by Virginia Konchan

Carolyne Van Der Meer’s five poems all speak back to forces that are larger than us: language, the speaker’s mother’s dementia, devotional love for a partner, literary inheritance, and nature. The voice that intercedes in these quiet, meditative poems, thus, is one of inextricable relation, speaking as a daughter, a wife, a reader of the Brontës, the witness to a horse as a young girl, and, later, to a family of deer seen in Estrie, Quebec. This voice is not one of passive witness, however, “stoic in my swaying,” but of a gifted poet whose capacity for literary, familial, and ecological sympathies extends to the recovery or bestowal of words in contexts where words fail, whether in the mother’s loss of speech, the silent rituals of married life, 19th c. consumptive death, or awe before creation. Aware of the inexorable forces of life and fate, Van Der Meer’s poems refuse enervation and apathy, instead reminding the reader of one of poetry’s greatest gifts: to give voice to the voiceless, and language to the unspeakable. “I have always wanted to inhabit the moors,” the speaker says: carving a groove into both domestic and pastoral settings, Van Der Meer juxtaposes modernist credulity with ancient faith, evincing a speaker still able to “find mysticism in all the same places,” through her painterly eye and capacious, divinatory ear.     

Carolyne Van Der Meer is Montreal-based journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer who has published articles, essays, short stories and poems internationally. She is the author of Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience (WLUP, 2014), Journeywoman (Inanna, 2017) and Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 Poems | Du coeur à l’âme : La vie de Marguerite Bourgeoys en 30 poèmes (Guernica Editions, 2020). This book, for which she translated her own poems into French, was awarded second prize in the Poetry Category of the Catholic Media Association’s 2021 Annual Book Awards and was a finalist in the The Word Guild’s 2021 annual Word Awards. A full-length poetry collection, Sensorial, was published by Inanna in 2022.