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Diane Theil

Diane Thiel’s first collection, Echolocations, won the 2000 Nicholas Roerich Prize and took second place in ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year competition. Many of the poems in Echolocations speak frankly about Thiel’s German heritage and the lineage of trauma brought on by war and violence. Several relate to her parents’ experience of mingling cultures and languages, or to their early lives. John Gery writes in Louisiana Literature that Thiel’s is “a poetry of psychic and cultural artifacts culled from the tiny and the immense, the interior and the distant.”

Christine Stewart-Nuñez observed in Prairie Schooner that Thiel’s later collection, Resistance Fantasies, a 2004 National Book Award nominee, “explore[s] myth and personal story, legends and contemporary public issues.… Thiel portrays women who resist appearances or conventions, especially the ways myths typically construct them.”

Thiel has authored eight books, including The White Horse: A Colombian Journey, a 2004 PEN Southwest Book Award finalist in nonfiction; Writing Your Rhythm (2001); Crossroads: Creative Writing Exercises in Four Genres (2004); Open Roads: Exercises in Writing Poetry (2004); Winding Roads: Exercises in Writing Creative Nonfiction (2007); and Cleft in the Wall (1999). She won an NEA International Literature Award for her translation of American Fugue, Alexis Stamatis’s poetic novel. Her poems have been anthologized widely and have appeared in publications such as Poetry, the Hudson Review, the Sewanee Review, and The Best American Poetry 1999.

Thiel has lived in Europe and South America and is fluent in several languages. A 2001 Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the Robert Frost and Robinson Jeffers awards, Thiel holds BA and MFA degrees from Brown University. She has taught creative writing, literature, and other subjects at the University of Miami, Florida International University, the University of New Mexico, and elsewhere. (poetryfoundatiton.org)

I loved this poem because of all the story she didn’t write between the lines… It made me wonder what I might not have written between the lines of some of my own poems.


If You Don’t

If you don’t have a dog
your neighbor will not poison it

and if you don’t have a home
you will not have to run from it

when your father’s anger shakes the walls
that don’t exist because you don’t have a home

to grow up in—nowhere to learn
that the husband you won’t have

will not leave you for another woman
will not walk out your door one morning—

because you won’t have a door
for anyone to leave or enter through

and you won’t have a window
for anyone to see you

and if you don’t make plans
they will not need to be changed

like the diapers you won’t change
since you won’t have a child

who will never change your life
whose tiny fingers you will never hold

because of how hard you never wished
and planned her away so many times

and she will not grow up to hate you
for everything you never did

as if you didn’t have a child—and she won’t learn
that if you don’t have a memory

the past will not devour you
when you stop moving for a brief

moment. Long enough to let the sorrow
catch the joy you never feel because you

don’t want to feel the sorrow
its companion. And if you don’t feel—

there will be nothing left to heal.


Picture Source: Poetry Foundation