Doris Henderson’s first full-length poetry collection, What Gets Lost, is a work of stunning multiplicity, mingling jubilation and high jinx with a terrible sense of what gets lost, moving between glorying in the world’s beauty and exposing its follies and pitfalls, between reveling in the real and free-falling in a magically surreal realm of dream and fantasy. What holds it all together is a sensibility as witty as it is wise, a voice in love with the possibilities of language and metaphor. About these poems Kathleen O’Connor has written, “Doris Henderson’s What Gets Lost is a beautiful, reflective memoir in narrative free verse. The poems have a dreamlike, almost surreal quality, with an amazing cast of characters who both bedevil and inspire. We are treated to witticisms and warnings from dead relatives, as well as transformations in the animal and vegetable kingdoms—the ‘monkey inside my skull,’ the revolt of threatened weeds who ‘want it all back.’ Colorful friends and playful creatures will capture your imagination and transport you to a different time and place, yet one that is strangely familiar. This witty, precise poetry is accessible but deeply affecting. Ms. Henderson’s work has a place on every poetry lover’s bookshelf.” And this from Christine Beck: “Doris Henderson’s imagery is both striking and original. I savored phrases such as ‘the past...with its eerie blue light and green feathers,’ ‘wine glasses fidget behind glass doors,’ and ‘fall is...the broken doppler of a passing train.’ She writes with assurance of childhood, dreams, and love’s vagaries. These are poems to visit again and again, for the sheer joy of the ride.”
Doris Henderson grew up in a very small town on rural Long Island. She attended the State University of New York at Albany and holds an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. A former teacher and theatre coach, she sees poetry as a performance art. Her work has been published in many journals and anthologies, as well as three chapbooks: Transformations, Leaving the Plaza, and Distances. Doris lives in Danbury, Connecticut, where she attends workshops with writer friends, does freelance editing, and serves as president of the Danbury chapter of the Connecticut Poetry Society. She has four children, six grandchildren and a cat named Azure.
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When I was ten, Mama put me to work
Mrs. Davis didn’t bake identical cookies,
Every morning the Davis cows walked slowly
She was the only person in town,
Mrs. Davis would talk for hours about her life
If I were Mrs. Davis, I thought,
I have a monkey inside my skull.
He is strong — and supple.
He smells bad.
Sometimes he gets out and walks around the house,
When company comes I have to sedate him
Why couldn’t I have a pet bird, or a kitten,
I’d miss him if he left.
Sometimes I wish I’d never met him,
I am curled up on the sofa, head propped
Hold it! he says to me. Don’t move a muscle!
No, no, just lie there, he says, go on reading.
He has these excursions into the arts.
Now the cat is walking all over me.
The cat is fluffy, has an even disposition.
I think the cat is tired of him.
Close the door gently;
Into the endless void
In early May I find them,
I break my nails digging the crabgrass
They fight back: small saplings cut red stripes
Written in the curl of tiny roots,
In June the heatherweed and Queen Anne’s lace
They whisper in the dusk,
We can hike
Slowly we will savor the fish
Later the curious moon
He must be a really resourceful guy, came up
a sort of one-size-fits-all. A lacy crown
Rich took care of everything, invited
She was glad she didn’t know any of them.
The dinner was the best part — lots of crêpes suzettes
She couldn’t seem to remember much
Her mother and father showed up, and she decided
They were going on a trip, mother announced,
Her day felt crispy and planned, as though
First the floor gives
The others are
Scrawled on a back page, just one word — Suzanne
(the strokes I’d studiously learned to duplicate:
How clever, how discreet, to hide her there,
Mysterious coed? Someone else’s wife?
Was she the legal wiz he hired last year
Perhaps a faithful, sweet-faced, willing slave,
I don’t know what about her caught his eye,
Hers was the only name I ever found.
We could take the train...
Huddled together, feet propped on suitcases,
Riding the long anonymous miles,