Courtesy of the Harding Bison.
Assistant professor of English Paulette Bane published her second book of poetry Jan. 3. The book, “Wading through Lethe,” was published under the name Paulette Guerin and explores the theme of memory, drawing inspiration from mythology and Bane’s childhood.
The journey of creating “Wading through Lethe” began in 2012. Bane spent five years on the manuscript, followed by a period of finding a publisher and waiting for publication. She said waiting was one of the most challenging parts of the process.
“The poems kind of end with, you know, my life in my early 20s: That was a long time ago,” Bane said. “The writing isn’t the problem; that’s not the hard part. Rejection I’ve accepted as part of [the process]. Waiting is hard.”
Bane said her writing inspiration usually came while she was reading, leading her to write much of her manuscript’s first draft on paper.
“The flow of ideas begins when I’m reading other artists; a lot of my drafts being written by hand because I put down the book that I’ve been reading, and I grab a pencil,” Bane said. “And a lot of them are written on the backs of envelopes that I haven’t recycled yet.”
The title “Wading through Lethe” comes from one of the book’s poems, “Childhood,” and highlights the book’s theme of memory.
“There’s a line in [“Childhood”] about wading through Lethe,” Bane said. “When I wrote the poem, I didn’t think, ‘Oh, there’s the title,’ I just at some point was reading through the manuscript, and that line stuck out to me … Lethe is the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology that the souls cross as they’re going into Hades, and so it worked well with the manuscript’s concerns with memory and my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s.”
Bane dedicated her book to both of her grandmothers, who helped feed her creative spirit.
“Both women embraced their identities as artists and were encouraged by their families,” Bane said in a post from her blog, pauletteguerin.com. “From an early age, I saw that creativity was a valuable activity in and of itself.”
She also explained how her grandmothers play a part in her book.
“Sometimes writing poetry is a way of dealing with regret,” Bane said. “Sometimes it’s a search for closure. Sometimes it’s an attempt to bring the person back. Sometimes I just want to keep learning from people.”
Bane also said the process of publishing helped her as a professor, especially since she was teaching Professional Editing while editing her book.
“Figuring out how a book is made, all the processes involved, all the people involved … it’s information I can share with my students,” Bane said. “I was teaching it, and it felt so real to be teaching it and actually going through the process at the same time. And I love when that can happen. When my artistic endeavors can overlap with my teaching, and they can enhance each other.”
Professor of English Dr. Terry Engel said Bane is a mentor and inspiration to her students.
“The English Department is very proud of Paulette Bane’s work,” Engel said. “As lead teacher in Intro to Creative Writing, Writing Poetry and Professional Editing, Professor Bane’s publications help us market our program to prospective students, and she serves as an inspiration to our current students who dream of becoming writers and editors.”
Associate professor of English Dr. Nick Boone reviewed Bane’s book in “Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies.” He described the way Bane’s writing evokes memories in the reader.
“Guerin’s poems work this way — walking us through our own past, walking us through a scene we’ve been part of before, taking us to that Gingko tree we should have noticed, and perhaps did long ago,” Boone said.
Engel shared similar sentiments on Bane’s work.
“I love Guerin’s concrete language and strong imagery, her concision and her ability to transport me to places and feel emotions that I might never have access to in my own life,” Engel said. “Her poems have the ability to help all of us step outside ourselves and see the larger world around us in vivid images and strong emotions.”