South Dakota State University associate professor Christine Stewart-Nuňez shares images of love, loss and hope in two new poetry books, “Untrussed” and “Bluewords Greening.”
“I call them my twins because they used to be the same book,” Stewart-Nuňez explained. Because of the diverse topics, she separated her works thematically into two books. The poems in “Untrussed” explore love and loss, while those in “Bluewords Greening” focus on the challenges of raising a child with special needs and the sorrows of four miscarriages. Both books are available at amazon.com.
“Writing makes me a better version of myself because I have to reflect. What could be more important than analyzing the text of your own life,” said Stewart-Nuňez, who has published four books of poetry and three chapbooks. However, she pointed out, “You can’t make yourself the hero of your own story because you’re not.”
In “Untrussed,” Stewart-Nuňez shares poems about relationships, both developing and ending. “These poems come from different moments of my life that I re-imagined,” she said. In addition, Stewart-Nuňez delves into life’s challenges through female icons, from the 12th century nun, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, to supermodel Kate Moss and Wonder Woman. She portrays Wonder Woman as a human being, never as a superhero, she explained. “She is more like an alter ego.”
Poet Grace Bauer, who was Stewart-Nuňez’s mentor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, refers to “Untrussed” as “a journey—both geographic and emotional.” Poet Vivian Shipley, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, said, “These are not poems that can be sailed out into the night. They will return to boomerang the heart.”
On her website www.christinestewartnunez.com, she describes her approach to life and writing: “I write at the intersection of experience and research to figure life out.” The poem Lithography in “Bluewords Greening” speaks to that in the last line: “we’re art because of what life puts us through.”
Stewart-Nuňez explained, “My works help break the silence about taboo issues and that, along with others’ voices, can generate change and transformation. When I share something like the miscarriages, most of the time someone says, ‘I had a miscarriage and was too afraid to talk about it.’ They always thank me.”
The title, “Bluewords Greening” speaks to one of the facets of her older son’s rare form of epilepsy known as Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. The words in the title are made up, explained Stewart-Nuňez, who defines bluewords as those spoken by someone with a language impairment.
Seizures associated with the Landau-Kleffner Syndrome typically begin in normally-developing children and damage the portions of the brain responsible for language, according to epilepsy.com. Through her poetry, Stewart-Nuňez also shares her son’s insights as he reinvents words and images, such as “hotchiladas” for spicy food and “I hear the dust,” in response to a howling prairie wind.
“Sharing his stories is a way of making space for him in the world,” she said. “I use it as a mode of raising awareness about epilepsy and special needs.” Not all families can rise to the challenges of raising a child with a chromosomal abnormality or a chronic illness.
Stewart-Nuňez said, “I feel like I have a choice—it’s a choice for me to advocate for him; it’s a choice to make his life better every day.” But doing so also means “revising my life, letting go of the things I thought I would be doing and being open to possibilities.”
How her son will feel about the poems she writes is not something she dwells on. “If he can one day read these stories, I won’t care what he thinks about them, that he can read, in itself, will be enough,” she added.