On Thursday, Shaman Drum will be hosting a reading from “The Life Before Her Eyes” author Laura Kasischke. Kasischke is an accomplished poet and promising novelist with achievements including the Alice Fay DiCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Bobst Award for Emerging Writers.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Harcourt Brace

She attended the University, graduating in 1984, and continued here for her M.F.A before going on to Columbia. Though she has written all her life, her literary talents became her life passion and pursuit when she declared creative writing as her major in the Residential College.

In a recent interview with the Daily, Laura described the transition from sitting in a creative writing class at Michigan and repeatedly winning the renowned Hopwood Award to actually making a career out of her poetic gift.

She said, “I began to get published when I let go of the need for instant gratification and began to focus on the original reasons I began to write to put an order to the world and direct my energy toward what I enjoyed instead of obsessing on what I did not understand or could not change.”

“The Life Before Her Eyes” is set in Ann Arbor. The novel combines the careless freedom of adolescence with the maturity and understanding of middle age in an imaginative and captivating plot. The novel”s heroine, recluse, artist, daughter, friend, girlfriend, mother and wife are combined into the multidimensional character, Diana. Kasischke juxtaposes Diana”s teenage discovery of sexuality, free will, mysteries of life and death, with her own middle-aged reflection on her past decisions and her current life.

“Life Before Her Eyes” opens with a prologue describing a fatal circumstance followed by a fatal decision as the teenage Diana is asked to choose between her own life and her best friend”s life. The text reads, “And when he asks, “Then who should I kill?” She hears herself answer, “Kill her. Not me.”” Kasischke then slowly slips into the clandestine narrative of Diana”s youth and Diana”s middle age, forcing one to constantly question the outcome of the prologue.

“The Life Before Her Eyes” reflects Kasischke”s first passion of writing, poetry. Though this is her third novel, she excelled at Michigan, as well as in the beginning of her writing career, as a poet. Her verse did not metamorphasize into prose until 1993 when she began writing her first novel, “Suspicious River”(1996) followed by her second, “White Bird in a Blizzard” (1998). Kasischke admits her poetry is very narrative, and after reading “The Life Before Her Eyes,” you will discover that her prose is very poetic. She is currently working on a new novel, and has just finished a fourth collection of poetry, “What It Wasn”t”. Kasischke intends on reading the prologue and excerpts from her latest novel at Shaman Drum tomorrow. She will answer questions after the reading.

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