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Sightlines (Riehl) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
(These questions are provided by LitLovers and the author. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution.)

1. Choose a poem that has resonance for you. Listen to Janet’s reading and the interlude music on the Sightlines audio book. Why does that particular poem carry personal meaning? Does listening to Janet’s reading clarify or deepen your response to the poem?

2. How do the 90 poems relate to the songs, banter, and stories in the interlude? Pick a track to listen to and discuss how each relates to each other. What does the music bring to your experience in reading/hearing the poetry.

2. Edith O'Nuallain, a reviewer (see above) mentions the poet's bravery in facing loss of loved ones. Where in these poems do you find words that convey emotional solidity, the poet's strength through adversity?

3. Does poetry have a special ability to convey emotions such as longing, suffering, sadness, quiet acceptance and joy? Are poems different from a novel's expressivity? If you think so, in what way?

4. Riehl calls the poems in Sightlines "story poems" which she defines as "combining highly compressed narrative, musing, and observation using poetic techniques such as alliteration, imagery, and metaphor." In the story poem, as in prose, the sentence rather than the line is the primary unit. Her aim is to condense the work while keeping it accessible. How well do you feel this form succeeds in telling her story?

5. Riehl views Sightlines as an extended narrative, each piece fitting into another like a puzzle. What is the overall narrative spanning the five sections in the book? Is there a narrative arc, as in a piece of prose such as a novel or a memoir?

6. Riehl writes of three people and two places she loves. What would be on your short list for people and places you love?

7. Riehl has identified several themes in Sightlines: power of place, time, family, home, memory, and impermanence (the fragility and change in life). What are some of the poems you’d include in each theme? Do you see other themes here? Is there an over-all message? As a reader do you need a message?

8. The author has kindly offered up a recipe for her father's scrapple, a traditional loaf made of cornmeal and pork. It would be fun to serve it at a meeting devoted to Sightlines.

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