Daughter of a Rogue: an Interview with Poet Stephanie Lynn Hilpert

Poetry by Stephanie Lynn Hilpert

Last year I interviewed Carlton Davis, author of Bipolar Bare, a unique, award-winning memoir that details the author’s lifelong struggle with Bipolar Disorder, a painful yet hopeful book that I believed deserved more attention, and I was glad to share it with the reading community. 

In the interview, however, Davis revealed the vital role his wife had played in the long and painful healing process of this powerful disorder…and I started wondering about her responsibility in all of this: the love, the hate, the frustration, the hope, the disappointment and the thousand other constantly competing emotions that must’ve attacked the secret well of strength (or weakness) she’d called on again and again in order to endure her husband’s illness and ultimately aid in his recovery.

At about that time, I had met and begun a correspondence with a young poet in Palms Springs, California named Stephanie Lynn Hilpert. She said she wanted me to review her book, Daughter of a Rogue & Poems of the Dung Beetle Girl, a collection of poetry she had written over the years to address her feelings about her father’s battle with Schizophrenia – at the core of which was a powerful delusion that he was the second son of God – which would cause him to lose everything and leave him homeless when Stephanie was just 14 years old. You may remember the video footage of Stephanie and her father on the last show of MTV News Unfiltered. Either way, after my interview with Davis, I agreed to review her book and interview her for the LA Books Examiner – and I’m glad I did.

“Daughter of a Rogue” is the title poem of the short collection of 21 poems. The remaining 20 poems make up the “Poems of the Dung Beetle Girl”, a collection of traditional prose poems that are filled with traditional images of angst: bears, bees, beetles, birds, even alligators. In “Daughter”, however, we get the real story discussed above (the silence of suffering, the loneliness, the shame, the love) in a 29-page rant of raw emotion stripped down to single-word lines of poetry arranged down the center of the page like a spray of bullets. Normally, this would annoy me. I like the rules. I prefer structure and order – there’s a couple of typos, too (arrgh!). But something about these separate but connected words kept pushing me along. After all, it’s not a sonnet or an ode. It reminds of those games of association we all sometimes play – What’s the first word you think of when I say? – only it’s dozens of words at a time, dozens of images, and dozens of emotions. I took it as a reluctance, not a refusal, to conform.

There’s no doubt you’ll either love or hate this unusual presentation right away. Stephanie will tell you that herself. Personally, I like it. It’s short enough to appreciate but not overwhelm. Sure, I don’t think this is something I’ll turn to again and again like my beloved traditional rule-following poems. Instead I see this poem more as an experience – a positive experience – a quick trip to a world in which I don’t belong, a world of loneliness and pain, a world of mental illness we’re not supposed to talk about in polite company – a tour the world of those among us who don’t have a choice but to live there, secretly and quietly loving and hating the family member whose mental illness holds them all hostage.

To read the full review and interview, visit LA Books Examiner.

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