The Poetic Power of Nostalgia

A Reading of David Kopaska-Merkel’s “June Lockahart’s Recurring Nightmare.”

Tawana Watson

The use of nostalgia in poetry invites new readers to connect with a poet they may have not otherwise read, to revisit certain events within their past that meant something to them. It inspires the reader to have specific, strong emotions, like love or hate. When a person is connected to a poet’s work through emotions like nostalgia, it creates a better experience for the reader.  Personal connections to poetry establish an unseen bond between the poet and reader.  A reader becomes a supporter of the poet and encourages the poet to continue creating or expanding the poet’s audience.

There are many elements that can be used to create a nostalgic connection for readers of poetry, however visual scenes that a reader can close their eyes and see are among the most common techniques used.

A poet I have found that inspired nostalgia and the subsequent emotional reaction within myself is David C. Kopaska-Merkel with his poem “June Lockhart’s Recurring Nightmare” appearing in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the name within the poem, June Lockhart. June Lockhart is an actress that appeared in many television shows that I watched while growing up. Seeing just the name, June Lockhart, brought me back to Saturday morning, sitting on the floor in front of the television with my brother, eating Count Chocula cereal watching Lost in Space, one of June Lockhart’s popular television shows. On the title alone, I wanted to dive into the poem to see what the poet, Kopaska-Merkel, was writing about. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the vivid visuals of the scenery within the poem. These lines below are clear examples of the vivid visuals:

she fumbles at the airlock controls,
the children asleep in their beds
dreaming it's Christmas morning.
Her nightgown repeatedly snags
in the tight quarters

I was able to read the poems and see the scenes when I closed my eyes which instantly brought me back to that place at that specific time, Christmas morning.

David Kopaska-Merkel

As I read, I noticed some specific things; one being how David incorporated June Lockhart’s television shows within the poem by putting little clues identifying the shows, as well as, creating a mini-mystery for the readers to figure out. These lines mess around with the fact that June Lockhart starred in the show Lost in Space television show as well as building suspense:

she finally gets the lock open.
Instantly she's sucked into the void;
tumbling, she sees the ship,
things squirming from the open lock,
her breath exploding from her mouth

The poem starts slowly, then the suspense builds. Disregarding the personal connection I initially felt, the suspense kept me reading. Here is another line that demonstrates the building of suspense:

her husband sitting bolt upright,
shouting her name,
and she's home,
soundless screams fading.

As I moved my way through the poem I was hooked and wanted to know what was coming next. Once I reached the ending of the poem, I would say that I knew what was going to happen, however, I was still surprised. The ending was not expected. A poet who is able to create, in a short poem, the suspenseful build-up and the surprising ending that came at the end of the poem is a great writer.  


Tawana Watson is a fledgling writer and poet in speculative poetry with a focus on afro-surrealism, horror, and true crime. She pulls a lot of her inspiration from anxiety and depression since she has been diagnosed with these disorders and lives with these issues daily. She is very curious about normality and what normality is and incorporates that in her writing.  Her articles have appeared in the Call and Post Newspaper, Cleveland State University Student Newspaper and the Cuyahoga Community College Newspaper, and a host of blogs. She is a member of the SFPA and a minority mental health advocate, currently residing in Cleveland, OH.

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