On August 3, 2020, Passaic County Community College’s own English Professor, Dr. Christine Redman-Waldeyer, had a poetry book published. She was sought out by an Indian publishing company who admired her work and asked her to make a compilation of her poems. Dr. Waldeyer then meticulously searched through eight years worth of poems, and even wrote a few current ones, to come up with a collection that made sense in the chaos that has been the year 2020. The publication is aptly named “Where We Nest.”
While reading through the poems, I was struck by the notion that there were a lot of topics Dr. Waldeyer wrote about that didn’t reach me. It wasn’t because they weren’t profound topics, it was just that I as a 27-year-old college student that still needs my mother’s help to survive, didn’t quite understand the intricacies of life through Dr. Waldeyer’s eyes. I haven’t felt the loss of a parent, the loss of a home by natural disaster, what it was like to have a child, and all of the emotions that come with being a part of that child’s life.
One of her poems, “Night Vision,” describes a scene of her visiting the Fireman’s Fair. What would normally be depicted as a warm, lovely night for a small town is instead shown through a lens of politics and the adverse effects it can have on children who know nothing about it. I grew up in a small town and went to the carnival every summer as a child but never imagined as an adult what my parents would be thinking in that situation. At one point she states “…there will be birthday parties won and lost, and they will succumb to or become the who’s who”. Although I do not understand that pain as a parent, I do remember how much it hurt as a child to not be included in certain activities my classmates held. Often our unawareness of how our parent handled those situations continues the cycle to other generations.
Similarly, “Coastal Nesting” tells a story of two birds in a mating ritual. Dr. Waldeyer and I are both animal lovers, however I do not think I would have seen the magic in the moment the way she had. Seeing two birds swooping and feeling compelled to research their behavior. Figuring out that what she had just witnessed was a mating ritual, and being so moved by it helped her turn it into her own art. She believed this related heavily to the dance we do as people to try and sway things in our favor. Similarly, to how we act for social, political, or professional gain. Many of Dr. Waldeyer’s poems revolve around birds and social interactions, which is why the title of the book is so fitting. Where we create our homes, families, and lives has such a big impact on who we let ourselves become.
While interviewing Dr.Waldeyer about her book, I shared with her how it made me feel. She pointed out to me that she had gotten the same feeling during the interaction that led her to write “Chicken Store.” While discussing different perspectives on literature, a student of hers brought up the fact that they had chicken stores in their area. Dr. Waldeyer had to ask the student for clarification because she did not know what a chicken store was. The student remarked that her point had been made by Dr. Waldeyer’s confusion, and added to the conversation that similarly, her area had a lot more abortion clinics than her professor’s. The realization of their different perspectives prompted this hard-hitting poem.
As much as I have been stating the fact that I am not able to fully put myself in the shoes of Dr. Waldeyer while reading her poetry, I am trying to make the point of how important it is to read literature that makes you question your own perspective. When we consume art, news, and other forms of media, we tend to look for things that align with our beliefs but push them just far enough that we feel educated and accomplished by engaging with them. Instead, we should be engaging with media that pushes us past our comfort zone and trying to understand where this media is born from. Instead of judging others for not seeing the world the same way we do, when we read poetry from someone from a different walk of life, we ask important questions about what life is really like for others.
In 2020 we have faced immense political, racial, financial, and health disparities. The divide between people has grown from our inability to empathize with one another. On my first day of class with Dr. Waldeyer, she played a video for us titled “The Danger of a Single Story” which taught us how important it is to research and challenge the “facts” that we have built our perspective of others on. Reading her book has solidified that idea and added to my perspective of life in this world. Thankfully, the company that published her also understands the importance, and is spreading her work to international readers.
“Redman-Waldeyer, C. (2020). Where We Nest. Kaushambi Kunj, Kalindipuram: Cyberwit.net.”