There’s very little that is off limits for Sandra Kolankiewicz. In person and in her poems, she’ll give you the whole story: the bad and good parts, no matter how aching, how intimate. In 2005, she returned to poetry after more than two decades focusing on other genres. She had good reason to abandon poetry. Shortly after learning that she was going to be published for the first time, the editors who had chosen her poem asked for a meeting during which, line by line, she was asked to justify her work. Unsatisfied with her answers, the editors pulled her poem from the publication schedule. Sandra packed away all of her poems and turned to fiction. Twenty-five years later, a constellation of events caused her to rethink her relationship with poems. A dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, quickly deteriorated, and died. It became clear that her son, who is autistic, was not going to make the much-prayed-for miraculous recovery and that she would have to leave her job at the college where she had worked for over a decade in order to care for him. There were two wars on the television. Her parents were aging. Sandra didn’t have time for fiction. But she knew that she had to write, so she returned to poetry. “Anwar Sadat’s Wife’s Lover”, one of the poems in Turning Inside Out, was written the weekend that she saw her friend for the first time after his diagnosis. “Gleaning” was written after he died. Turning Inside Out is a collection of new poems, written in 2005 and later, and old ones that had been in storage since the early 80’s. Shortly after putting the book together, it won the Black River Chapbook Competition.
Turning Inside Out is a book that follows the acrobatics of one’s emotional movements when it seems impossible to decide which is worse: the self or the world. It can also read as an index for how and when poems are essential, how and when they can save a life.