The process of reclaiming a family home reveals secrets and memories in this new poetry collection from Meredith Trede.
If, as the architect Le Corbusier put it, a “house is a machine for living,” then it is a machine with a particularly intimate function, not only providing shelter for those who live within it, but over time becoming a repository of history and memory of those lives in their most private, vulnerable moments — the process by which it transforms into a home. It can also serve as a repository of the more physical time, accumulating the detritus of generations to be sifted through, fought over or discarded, a process often accompanied by grief or guilt. And, to push the metaphor just bit more, like any machine it suffers from abuse and neglect, declining into its own sort of death. All of this is the subject matter for Meredith Trede’s new poetry collection, BRINGING BACK THE HOUSE, and as her title (and title poem) suggest, it is an act of reclamation and renovation, an effort to “Reweave the tapestry of vanished time.” Through these poems she invites us into her house and its memories, and we accompany her as she unearths family secrets and reconnects with long dead relatives through the things left behind, like an aunt’s blue velvet robe “Found along with secrets / of devotion, deceit, and sorrow” that she still wears thirty years later, though acknowledging “I know I will have to let it go.” That’s a sentiment that will be all too familiar to those readers who have had the experience of settling the affairs of departed family members (and for those who haven’t yet had the experience, this is a foretaste of what is to come). But if learning to let go is one of the lessons here, there is also the hope of turning the page, and writing the next chapter in the history of the house through the act of living: “Toss out decades; level, saw, sand. / Darling house, you’ll soon be grand.” And so will those who shelter within it.
“A summer retreat two blocks from ‘the boards’—the beach boardwalk on the Jersey Shore is the center of Meredith Trede’s Bringing Back the House. Wrapped around this house is the artful story of family histories and the secrets held by those long gone, told in narrative and sometimes epistolary poems formed from material found in archival letters. ‘We were building a family tree’ Trede writes in ‘My Aunt’s Blue Velvet Robe.’ This collection is that tree: in particular there is Aunt Louise who marries the pastor second time around, and the beloved Uncle Joe who had two families it turns out, as well as other kindred, vivid in poems which ‘always know more than the heart allows’ (‘Pity Me Not the Waning of the Moon’). We can hear the multitude of voices rising in Trede’s skilled hand. This collection wows the reader in its consideration of all that is lost and all that is found.” —Susana H. Case, author of Dead Shark on the N Train & The Damage Done
“Meredith Trede’s new book Bringing Back the House is an intensely personal and profoundly universal meditation on the power and mystery of time. It’s a visceral paradox: the images that represent a world endure and gain in power even as that world vanishes. Maybe that’s why signs and symbols have such authority in our minds. Trede’s work is crucially grounded in time and place: Wildwood, the proximity and aftermath of an all-consuming war: but she’s at the core of every human life when she explores how we experience the jujitsu of memory—the more the past recedes, the more we feel its heft: ‘the nothing brushing the back // of your neck, ruffling your hair; an ashy / taste in your mouth; your dead father’s // step on the stair, his bald head above / a crowd; caress of your aunt blessed, // handsewn chiffon, first grownup dress—the past taunting you over and over.’ Trede is our guide to a visionary dream world of finalities, ‘swizzle sticks, stirrers and shakers,’ where it’s hard to tell the living from the revenants: ‘her she-who-was blooms a ghostly presence / in the antique armoire’s clouded mirror.’ Bringing Back the House is unforgettable.” —D. Nurkse, author of A Country of Strangers: New and Selected Poems
“Meredith Trede’s Bringing Back the House is a book of home and longing for home, its
inhabitants and furnishings. The poet understands what William Carlos Williams meant when he said, ‘No ideas but in things.’ Every object in Trede’s poems holds memories, brings back long-ago mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, yet she has a firm grip on the ‘now’ she’s living ‘… rotting / pinafores, boleros, cardigans, ponchos, dried out minks, / dinner jackets, toppers, mantuas, muumuus, stiletto heels / reams of brittle letterhead, fountain pens….’ Readers will find their own, memory-filled homes in this inviting collection.” —Bertha Rogers, author of Heart Turned Back & Wild, Again
Meredith Trede is the author of two collections of poetry: Tenement Threnody (Main Street Rag Press), and Field Theory (SFA University Press). As a Toadlily Press founder, her chapbook, Out of the Book, was in Desire Path. Her extensive journal publications include Barrow Street, The Feminist Wire, Friends Journal, Gargoyle, Gathering of Tribes, and The Paris Review. She has held residencies at Blue Mountain Center, Ragdale, Saltonstall, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Virginia and France. She serves on the Slapering Hol Press Advisory Committee. Meredith has been a librarian, a teacher of French, Spanish, ESL, and writing. She lives in New York City and is the curator of an old family home on the New Jersey Shore.