cover image Elephant


Soren Stockman. Four Way, $17.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-954245-31-0

In his perceptive and haunting debut, Stockman conjures the ghost of Joseph Merrick, known in popular culture as the Elephant Man. (Stockman remarks on feeling an affinity for Merrick after playing him in a production of Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play The Elephant Man.) In the opening poems, the speaker struggles to understand and cope with their emotions and desires, all of which are potentially sinister and all-encompassing. In “Blood Flowers,” love is threatening: “Then love begins to bite through me,/ calling my name in the dark, eating my body./ Placenta percreta: like the jerk and groan of muscle,/ a child tunnels up through my gullet.” In “Elephant Man,” Stockman speaks as Merrick, expressing with bleak clarity the alienation of being different: “shame that did not hold up to the hot light of my own/ investigation.” The poems that follow this centerpiece feature Merrick as an observer and companion to the speaker, an avatar who reflects on the speaker’s feelings about himself: “And building// himself, unwieldy through years, he topples into caverns/ of himself.” The final section explores love for the self and others, emerging triumphantly in response to the self-analysis of the earlier poems. This is an acute and tender work of self-discovery and acceptance. (Sept.)