cover image Making Maxine's Baby

Making Maxine's Baby

Caroline Hagood. Hanging Loose (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-934909-46-1

Hagood follows her debut collection, Lunatic Speaks, with a brave and innovative poetic exploration of the grotesque yet mystical universe of Maxine, an educated woman in New York City who copes with the trauma of sexual abuse by leaving society to live in the subway. The book's narrative begins with chilling musings on suicide as Maxine searches for novelty and meaning in the world around her. She considers the parallels between horror and wonder, decides that understanding one's trauma cannot undo its damage, and proclaims that it is her recluse life%E2%80%94her "separateness"%E2%80%94that "saves her." Hagood meticulously expresses Maxine's contemplations with empathy and urgency. However, she also sets her audience up for estrangement by obscuring Maxine's view of her own existence with overdone metaphors and wordplay ("feed your plants and water your children"), by not explaining Maxine's journey of undoing, and by endowing Maxine with maudlin sensibilities (for example, she wants a baby in order to "fill this hole in her"). But even though the work falters on these accounts, Hagood took a worthwhile risk in attempting to empathetically express the beauty within such a disrupted mind, a mind that "wonders whether the streetlight that glows through her, leaving her half holy, half insane, is an affliction or a benediction." (Apr.)