After-Cave

Michelle Detorie. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-934103-54-8
Detorie extracts a poetics "against dying" out of a landscape of ruin and wilderness in this spirited full-length debut. The book comprises three long sequences concerning questions of shelter, destruction, and agency, which, though formally mercurial, remain linked through a single speaker who describes herself as "15. Female. Human (I think)." Materiality becomes a place of confluence for the bodily and the external universe, the man-made and the feral: "we are skin, snow, unpacked/ boxes opened like petals, skin// ... I held a line, a pail, my pockets/ becoming full, the moon/ blood red and lined with fur." The poems remain grounded in the subjective "I" but resist a linear sense of time, leading instead by sensation and image, and sometimes using formatting and typography to invite the reader into an unconventional experience of text, page, and physical book. This sense of play is punctuated by moments of direct assertion. "To insist that something—someone or some being—cannot be imagined is, in fact, its own form of oppression," Detorie writes. Indeed, her poetics struggles against such insistence in service of possibility. Where "The failure to occupy/ breaks apart like soap/ sand salt all/ the things we need/ to name," Detorie wrests a vocabulary of compassion. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/2014
Genre: Fiction
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