Congratulations to SR Contributor Catherine Broadwall, who recently published the poetry collection Fulgurite through Cornerstone Press. The book’s title takes its name from the crystalline structures that can form underground when lightning strikes sand or soil. It is used as an extended metaphor for jolting events—global and personal—that leave traces in their wake. Poems center on fairy tales, gender, coming of age, and the natural world. Many work in the tradition of domestic fabulism, blending the real with the fantastical. The cover was designed by Julia Kaufman.
The book has received generous praise:
“These ethereal poems exist within the mysterious, magical realm of fairytale. Fluid and porous, they have a witchy, spellbound nature. These pieces float.” — Allison Titus, author of High Lonesome
“Here is a poet who understands metaphor as deep transformation, whose lines strike like lightning and fuse to startle us into truth at once spiritual and politically vital.” — Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities
“We are fortunate to have Kyle’s many-faceted constructions in the world.” —Jennifer Militello, author of The Pact
“Fulgurite walks beside us, a ‘star-specked’ companion, into the radiant thicket. Beware, be there, be where the lightning touches.” —Emily Corwin, author of Sensorium
“Through masterfully painted imagery, Kyle offers hope by showing that a woman can find her power in a world where ‘men prowl the streets with enormous polished guns.’” —Reverie Koniecki, author of to the god of sore feet and bad backs
“A soulful and often stunning poetry collection.” —Kirkus Reviews
Catherine, formerly known as Catherine Kyle, married and changed her last name to Broadwall shortly after the book came out. Broadwall is a name created in collaboration with her husband and their families. She published Fulgurite under the name Catherine Kyle because it reflects that past chapter of her life. She sees it as one way to honor that time.
In addition to Fulgurite, Catherine is the author of Shelter in Place (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), which received an honorable mention for the 2019 Idaho Book of the Year Award. Her writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. She was the winner of the 2019-2020 COG Poetry Award and a finalist for the 2021 Mississippi Review Prize in poetry. She is an assistant professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology, where she teaches creative writing and literature.
View Catherine Kyle’s Abandoned Mall in issue 31 of Superstition Review.
To listen to a playlist of songs that helped inspire and share themes with the book, click here. To purchase Fulgurite, click here. To learn more about Broadwall, visit her website here.
Today we are pleased to feature poet Catherine Kyle as our Authors Talk series contributor. Join Catherine as she shares her thoughts on using a fantastical framework to talk about real feelings and experiences and how poetry provides a unique medium to do so.
“When you think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and turning it into something else.”
I’m Catherine Kyle, and I’m going to be talking a little bit today about poetry
and magic. When I looked back over the two poems that were published in Superstition
Review in issue 11, all the way back in 2013, the biggest thing I noticed
was that both poems have this kind of sense of myth and mysticism that I think
is still really present in the kind of poems I write now.
2013 was a long time ago—it’s seven years ago—and since then, I’ve experimented
with poetry and magic in lots of different ways. I’ve had a few chapbooks come
out since then, and one of them was about a kind of “guardian angel of art” who
wanders around an abandoned city rescuing library books and forgotten paintings
and things like that; the two poems that Superstition Review ran ended
up in a chapbook called Flotsam, which was all about the ocean as a
symbol of the unconscious that has a lot of mermaids and seaside villages and
kind of a fairy tale vibe—things like that. So it’s been a definite thread in
my writing for a long time, and in all these cases, I want to have stakes in
the real world, but it has always been really helpful to me to frame real
feelings and real experiences in this kind of mystical or magical light—to kind
of approach it through a different angle. Part of what I’ve been thinking about
a lot lately is why poetry seems like the best way to do that, as opposed to a
different type of art. Why I’ve gravitated to poetry specifically to do that. And
something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been trying to untangle that knot is
that poetry is really rich in metaphor, and I think there’s something almost
inherently magical about metaphor. It’s transformative, right? Like, when you
think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and
turning it into something else. And to me, metaphor feels different from simile,
because when you’re using a simile, you’re saying, “This was like this,”
which is something you could do in creative nonfiction, for instance: say, “This
experience was like being in a fairy tale.” But in poetry, you can use
metaphor more freely, I think—in metaphor, you’re saying, “This was this.”
It’s just a little bit different, but it feels powerfully different to me. Again,
in a poem, you’re not necessarily saying, “This felt like a fairy tale,”
you’re saying, “This was a fairy tale,” and there’s room in the poem for
those two things to be true simultaneously. The literal thing is true, but also
the figurative thing is true, and they’re existing simultaneously in this almost
paradoxical and, to me, kind of magical way. It’s a liminal space where two
things can be true at once.
other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot as far as why magic is this thread
in my poetry is that honestly, I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy as genres
for as long as I can remember—my whole life. And it took me quite a while to
realize that part of what I really like about sci-fi and fantasy is also part
of what I like about poetry. I think they both have the ability to ask, “What
if…?” and answer it in some new way. They both rely on imagination to think
about things that maybe don’t exist yet or could never exist in real life, that
are only possible in the realm of art (at least at this point). For example,
about a year ago, I wrote this sequence of poems where, like, an older, cooler
version of me drives around in a car and picks up younger versions of me who
needed a big sister figure and shakes them out of whatever situation they’re in
and gives them a little life advice and dusts them off and kind of holds space
for them. Obviously that can’t happen literally, right? Like, I can’t literally
time travel. But the fact that it can happen in a poem makes a kind of
catharsis possible that’s not possible any other way that feels almost
supernatural to me. So those are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about.
I’ll just read you a couple of poems from my two collections that came out last year. I had a chapbook come out from Ghost City Press called Coronations that consists of some fairy tale retellings, and I had a book come out from a press called Spuyten Duyvil called Shelter in Place, which, unfortunately, now is a phrase many more people are familiar with. I’ll read you one from Coronations first and then one from Shelter in Place. In Coronations, again, my goal was just to revisit traditional fairy tales and give some of the princesses a little bit more agency. Other writers have done this, but I wanted to try it out for myself. I’ll read you one called “Collective,” which is inspired by Swan Lake.
Somewhere adjacent to the world, we rule, gowns our feathers.
When stars blink out like carbonated water, limbs re-human. We rub
ourselves with bath salts, make a bonfire, and dance. Lake a slice of armor,
silver breastplate we surround. When dawn begins to infiltrate
the copse with prying hand beams, we stamp out what orange coal still smokes,
pack up our camping gear. We do not wait around for arrows, heartbreak, drowning—
none of that. We pirouette to bird form. We sail beyond its reach.
Okay. So that was one inspired by Swan Lake. I just always liked the character of Odette and was sad that she meets a tragic end in the original. I think in some versions all her friends, her swan attendants die with her, so it was just putting them in a contemporary setting where maybe they would have a little bit more agency.
The other poem I’ll read you is from Shelter in Place. While fairy tales are my favorite type of magic or allegory that I visit in poems, Shelter in Place has more of a cyberpunk feel. The whole book is set across a backdrop of this dystopian, futuristic city, and I tried to use that not only to talk about some of the grief and heaviness I feel when I think about some of the problems the world is facing right now—environmentally, economically, in terms of human rights, all kinds of things—to articulate the pain of living in a time where we’re facing the things we’re facing, but also to look for metaphors of hope and resistance in the face of all of that. So, I’ll read you one that was inspired by a flower I saw on a walk one day that was just bursting through the cement. It was just bursting through the sidewalk, right in front of me. There were no other flowers around—it was just this sea of concrete and then this very healthy-looking flower somehow, despite it all, against all odds, living there and thriving in the sidewalk. So, this is called “Blossoming 1.”
On these evenings our heads tilt up and become flowers, busting out of our collars, all iridescent. Geranium, freesia, gladiolus erupting straight out of our used T-shirts. With smartphones in our pockets—our long winter coats. Our cheeks shift to druzy, a spiked hymn of glitter refracting and clutching the siren-scraped light. The red -green-yellow No Vacancy din. We are all wind, all magenta. Our laughter a rooftop vertigo, a circle of lips on a bottle’s swan neck. Geode heartbeats keeping time. A wallowing, a daisy in cement.
Okay. Thanks. I’ll stop there, but thank you so much to Superstition Review for inviting me to be part of this series. Thank you for listening in. It was really fun to be part of this, and I hope you’re reading and/or writing something fun today. Thanks again!