A Review of Michelle Detorie's AFTER-CAVE (2014 by Ahsahta Press)
"The mirror doesn't have an eye, / it needs us to see it"
"Pain is a window filling up with wings, a bent backwards bird saw" and Michelle Detorie's AFTER-CAVE is filled with small gushes of that pain and unique ways to crawl through the pain or work with the pain. The experiments are all conducted by different mutations of femaleness. Contorted girls, with sweet and sour tics and other anomalies, wires fused with body parts, and numerous alignments of fur. Fur with wings hidden beneath. Fur with ghostly tinges covering bloody brain waves. Flying and falling and sinking and strangely sifting up again, "fin slid under wing". Flying and swimming and then, "Digging underground, I disrupted homes that did not belong to me / but wound deep and tethered together".
Different females partially bound together, "breathed the shadows, dusty crusts of corsets and ribs." Female animal body interactions fused with questionable relationships, semi-non-human, haunted, and marred. Feral nature parts fused with factory equipment. Feral/factory combinations creating tainted art with their own warped assemblage of assembly line hybrids. Glittery tummies, glass eyes, and slightly cracked eye glasses. Body lichen and Lynchian thoughts like "red jelly hearts/settled in logs".
Flesh pieces uncannily stitched and then ripped apart and then re-sewn into contorted positions. "We swing and twitch / the tune, the lungs brimming. At first it felt like all / I ever wanted was a hug, and a lung. But now the / burning coils of plastic unspool the glossed rots". Pulsed into damaged slots, "rocking the fetal corpses to sleep, pretending birth can be re-/visioned, revised and mended".
Fur covered mud, fur covered bloody clots, "We write/ about them because they / disappear". Like "little singed machines /who haven't any hearts", but Detorie will assist and help rebuild new ones. Unique, scary, beautiful, creepily reconstructed girl part creatures, "...gushing/ mud, bridle-bearing ghosts/blown in from the neighboring/thickets. Tumbleweeds or/teeth? "
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I've been a delighted fan of Michelle Detorie's poetry stylistics for quite a few years, when she edited WOMB in 2007/2008 and we were both part of the Dusie Kollektiv, through which I acquired several of her uniquely arty poetry chapbooks (you can read my review of her Dusie Kollektiv 3 chapbook, "Ode to Industry", published in 2009, within the archives of Tarpaulin Sky).
AFTER-CAVE is Detorie's first full-length poetry collection, published in 2014 by Ahsahta Press, as part of THE NEW SERIES (#65). I loved it. Its formatting is unique - rather than being entitled individually, the poems appear within three different sections - "FUR BIRDS", "FERALSCAPE", and the longest section, from which the book as a whole receives its title, "AFTER-CAVE". The sections morph and fuse and engulf different parts of the female creatures anatomy of mind and body and age and other life forms.
Detorie's poetic language and conceptualization is the kind I like best, because it is distinctive, captivating, and inspires poem lines from me too. The lines in quotation marks above are all from Detorie's poems - and so are the four lines below, which are then followed by one more line by Detorie, forming the title of a poem I created after reading Detorie's AFTER-CAVE :
• • •
"Black crust spills from the permeable lungs we created by stitch-
ing together the scraps of plastic we found among the school-
yard, the concrete mayhem chunked and powdered, but with
bits of glitter and foam deep in the crevices where we can reach"
- Michelle Detorie, from "AFTER-CAVE"
"our pink mold, our confection"
A small monster lives inside
a cake bite until it turns stale,
then she explodes outside her own hole.
Glitter tufts from her tummy taint
the whole room. She is hung
from the ceiling, like a piñata
filled with never ending mutating molds.
- Juliet Cook, inspired by "AFTER-CAVE"