Since 1996, April has been celebrated as National Poetry Month here in the States. This celebration of art shares favorite works as well as supporting new American poets in their endeavors. A list of ways to celebrate or ideas on how to discuss poetry more can be found here. Poetry is a form of art that we use every day – from adages that happen to rhyme to song lyrics – so I celebrated by purchasing a few poetry chapbooks, including one filled with monsters.
Chloe N. Clark’s poetry chapbook, The Science of Unvanishing Objects was released by Finishing Line Press in February. Clark stands out among poets because she specializes in the genres we know you love. Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror imagery, as well as a remarkable amount of references to Rasheed Wallace pepper her work as it discusses adulthood, relationships and fear.
One of her most inventive poems, “Google Search History, Tell Me Who I Am” uses the format of a list of seemingly random objects. However, closer inspection reveals the directionlessness of the speaker. The poem’s speaker searches for leaders like a basketball player turned coach and Abraham Lincoln. These Google searches also reveal fear – not only of the bluntly stated, “darkness” but also of the passage of time and age. The searches for “baby sloths in onesies” could indicate a love for animals cared for like infants that many share. Similarly, the format itself, Google searches, a universal internet tool, implies that we all share these fears.
The speaker of “A Breath Expelled” sets about using demon-hunting to describe relationships. She’s embarrassed of her demon hunting because it’s something that little girls and middle-aged men do. She lets us know about the demons she dreams about hidden in fantasies of ideal males. Words crowd the stanzas which run over one another in a breathless sort of way that calls to mind emotional immaturity. The exorcisms that the speaker wants to perform aren’t religious in nature, but rather deal with character flaws in potential lovers. Clark uses terms and concepts from horror fiction here to describe an emotional state of being.
However, Clark opens up the real magic in “The Apparitionist” where she combines magic with ghosts and past friends. The speaker ruminates on the effects that former lovers leave on us as she recalls an ex who talked about ghosts or another ex whose ex attempted suicide. The conflicted relationships twist and distort as stories get passed on from person to person. The poem builds like a short story up from the first ex (whose name has become lost) to a woman who needs to inform the speaker of a scar she might see in the future. The speaker presents a kind of wonder at the way we build relationships and how old relationships detract from new.
When it comes to speculative literature, novels and films have a tendency to hog the glory. Even short stories get more critical acclaim than speculative poetry. However, fantasy (one could argue, science fiction) predates the novel format or prose fiction. We forget all too often about the medieval fantasy traditions, not to mention the worlds built by Spenser and Shakespeare. The poems that Clark offers here don’t have too much in common with the verses of yore, but they do remind speculative fans where their roots lie.
Clark has released an awesome collection of poems here. She can weave together pop culture, horror, and science fiction with magic. Her poems uses fantastic images to confront real world fears. Find a friend, and read these aloud to them, or to yourself, to complete the experience.
Four out of five stars.
Favorite quote: “And the demons I dream are the ones with low voices / who wear tight jeans and lean over me in cafes to ask what I’m / reading.” – A Breath Expelled, page nine.