Dr. Dubrow Publishes New Book

By Meaghan Menzel

Copy Editor


Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. Jehanne Dubrow is celebrating the release of her fifth collection of poems “The Arranged Marriage.” The Rose O’Neill Literary House hosted the book’s launch on Saturday, March 7. According to the Chestertown Spy, “’The Arranged Marriage’ (University of New Mexico Press, March 2015) is based on several years’ worth of interviews with Dubrow’s mother, who shared stories from her Jewish-Latina childhood and early adulthood in Honduras and El Salvador.”

Dr. Jehanne Dubrow smiles with a copy of “The Arranged Marriage.”
Dr. Jehanne Dubrow smiles with a copy of “The Arranged Marriage.”

Dr. Dubrow said, “When I realized that I wanted to write about these experiences from my mother’s life, I asked for her permission and kept asking for it throughout the process. Because this isn’t my story, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t trespassing. When we discussed her recollections, we would often go over the same moment again and again, in order to see if we could uncover any new details in those memories. The conversations were like archeological digs, each session revealing new shards, small fragments from the past.”

While it was still in manuscript form, Dr. Dubrow’s “The Arranged Marriage” was honored for the 2012 Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. According to Poet and Playwright Claudia Rankine, “Each poem in Jehanne Dubrow’s manuscript-in-progress translates a form of violence and altogether adds up to a mosaic of assault. Details in these stunning prose poems are presented like mini still life’s creating patterns of preparation for victimization, retaliation, or escape… Dubrow understands that before the moment of trauma, the break in time, there was a thing or a thought put in a place. The poet here is positioned to observe, to picture, and to record in order to communicate coherence in the face of incoherence.” Rankine was one of the judges for the prize.

Dr. Dubrow’s former collections of poetry have been recognized for their ties to history. According to her website, Poet David Mason said in regards to her first book, “The Hardship Post,” that he “admire[s] Jehanne Dubrow’s poems not only for the poise and the beauty of her lines, but also for the way she grapples with big subjects: inheritance and home, the cultural and the personal. A bearer of traditions, she knows what it’s like to lose herself in modernity.”

Poet and Playwright Mary Jo Salter said, “Jehanne Dubrow’s ‘Red Army Red’ takes a remembered childhood behind the Iron Curtain and transforms its shadows and deprivations into the saturated colors of poetry.”

Dr. Dubrow with her mother, Jeanette Dubrow, whose life stories the book is based on.
Dr. Dubrow with her mother, Jeanette Dubrow, whose life stories the book is based on.

“I am the daughter of American diplomats and grew up all over the world, in places like Yugoslavia, Zaire, Poland, Belgium, and Austria,” Dr. Dubrow said. “During my childhood, I often had front-row tickets to revolutions, rebellions, and the collapse of empires; as a result, my private history always felt as if it were intrinsically connected to larger, national histories, so I think it was inevitable that, when I became a poet, my work would explore the intersection between the personal and the political.”

“The Arranged Marriage” stands out from Dr. Dubrow’s other book of poems in that this is her first collection of prose rather than traditionally styled poems. “For this book, I felt that the prose poem would be the most effective form for exploring the themes of violence, captivity, and different kinds of forced intimacy or closeness,” she said to the Chestertown Spy. She formatted the poems to look like newspaper columns on the page. This allowed her “to engage in a kind of reportage and to write about [her] mother’s experiences in a way that is simultaneously personal and clinical.”

“I normally work in received forms such as the sonnet or the villanelle,” she said. Working in prose form “affected the syntax I used, the diction, even the sound of my sentences.”

Overall, this experience gave Dr. Dubrow a stronger outlook on her mother and the life she lived. “I already knew that my mother was made of steel, but, discussing her familiar stories in a more formal way—as opposed to just hearing her recollections at the kitchen table, as I had throughout my childhood—made it clear to me that my mother is brave and strong,” she said. “As a young woman, she had to fight for her own autonomy and agency, her right to an education. She had to find a way to move on after trauma. I’m not sure that I could have done the same, if I had been in her place.”

Guests of the launch party included colleagues, friends, and WC alumni.
Guests of the launch party included colleagues, friends, and WC alumni.

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