Tuesday, January 3, 2017



Dollyland by Claire Hero
(Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2012)


Trism by Rebecca Loudon
(Horse Less Press, 2012)

Dollyland is a small chapbook on small pages (5” x 5”). Dolly is not Parton but Dolly the sheep[*], the first cloned mammal (technically not cloning but somatic cell nuclear transfer, close enough), born July 5, 1996, euthanized February 14, 2003 because of lung disease. Half the standard sheep lifespan, but Dolly lived an otherwise normal sheep life with babies of her own got in the usual sheep manner.

Dollyland is 15 remarkable short prose poems: making Dolly, climbing Dolly, my dolly, inside Dolly, sucking Dolly, my dolly [#2], the Eye of Dolly, dreaming Dolly, infecting Dolly, my dolly [#3], the Vagina of Dolly, inside Dolly [#2], ruining Dolly, the red house, what we saw from the ruined house. With two exceedingly brief interludes marked off by [ but not ended by ].

Dolly, her dollys, human witness(es); all careening together in careening language, obsessive meditations on sheep Dolly whose existence changes everything. Some samples to give a taste, for example, the first poem begins:

Never was it a question of not. A beached beastscape, a great Cell agape — we entered it. We breached the teethy tunnel & what dumb light leads us we never.

Or, in sucking Dolly:

                                                                                    … Wool-blind I
watch the milk fleece my veins until I’m sheeptracked.           Frontiered. Pasturage upon which the dollys graze their white invasions.

Not analysis, not theorizing, not intellectualizing, but diving deep into the body/ies of Dolly, her dollys, the unnamed we and I, the reader not entirely sure at times of species — “The great Eye opens and we enter” — who is entering?. Human and sheep merge and unmerge, the body of Dolly splays out and in again. And there is the language almost drunk on itself: “I took the proffered peep. I prodded the pulpy body. The poky grotto, the paling flesh. It was the prettiest scape.”

I keep returning to this book, lucky to own # 26 of 100 numbered copies, now all sold out. I wish you to be lucky too. Is a reissue possible?

And then there is Trism, another book I find myself returning to. Also obsessive. Also inter/intra species (bears this time, not sheep), also prose poems but more (47) and most longer (pages being 5.5” h x 8.5” w). As I looked for Trism’s online traces, Google somehow directed me to an anthropology paper by Beth A. Conklin and Lynn M. Morgan, Babies, Bodies, and the Production of Personhood in North America and a Native Amazonian Society, presumable because words like socio-centrism and ego-centrism appear. Which struck me as serendipitous. Babies, bodies (both human and bear), production of personhood (both bear and human and add to that boys and girls/men and women) are central to this book. As Loudon writes: “Intimacy confused with blasphemy the ineffable origins of SELF mystical when masked…”

Trism is situated in a gender-frozen dystopia, in which all girls/women are named Alice, all boys/men are named Jack, never one at a time, always all of them, i.e., Alices and Jacks, together with Trism Bear and, later, cub Ursula. Alices are in aprons tending to what women tend to and bearing what women have to bear — “the fucked the suffering mother the mayonnaise and white bread sandwich…”. Jacks’ bodies are helpless, violent, betraying themselves and Alices’ bodies. Jacks try to hang themselves. Alices have their periods. Sex is quickly glimpsed — “Jacks were getting back on their knees their cocks flapped at their stomachs” —raw experience with no context, often one-sided. Trism Bear is at times generative/mythic, at times in chains, at times animal in the forest, at times dead, diseased, “necrotic,” his suffering a form of revenge. And Ursula. at times an anthropomorphized toddler/baby, at times bear cub sucking her paw, killing animals, “she roared and trundled away..”

Most pages run 100 to 200 words thick with association, one to another, accreting, a landscape thick with suffering surrounded by the detritus of a middle class dream:

Babies at the bottom of every villainy suckled roots snatched toys broke down at the border a shoe repair shop a bakery stuffed animals footstools wicker baskets chocolates papier-mâché the syncretic carnival speechless and shuffling….

The landscape is both blasted and lush. Children appear as corpses, broken from plague, murdered by soldiers, twitching in a bomb shelter, poisoned, “ringworm colic allergies coughs”, mutant infants — “A naked vending child rode on the great bear’s back not caring that the bear scorched earth blasted cities.” In the last page/poem Ursula scrambles into the forest to be caught by “thirty cameras… thirty-three microphones… five thousand six hundred feet of cable… hid in an abandoned wolf trap…”

And the book ends “NO] nipson anomemata me monan opsin [NO.” — the Greek transliteration translates as: “wash your sins, not only your face.”

A handsome book. The cover is a photo taken somewhere in Europe — Italy? Romania? — I would guess 1930’s to 1950’s, a bear sitting in the street, muzzled, a long chain connecting it to a man who holds the chain in one hand and in the other a tambourine, while a few bystanders watch in and near a doorway, a porch; one woman has her hand up to her mouth in shock? horror? concern? The binding uses the elegant Japanese four-hole binding stitch, the pages are cream or is it ivory, subtly textured. Of course it is out of print. But the text is available online as a pdf from several sources. You can Google them yourself and I suggest you do. The binding and paper will not be available to you, but the cover photo will, and of course the remarkable poem(s).

[*] Sheep Dolly named for Parton because the nucleus was from a mammary gland cell and what else would you expect her creators, being men, to name her?


Judith Roitman has most recently published in Otoliths, Eleven Eleven, Horse Less Journal, Talisman, YEW, Futures Trading, Writing Disorder, and E.Ratio. Her recent chapbooks include Slackline (Hank’s Loose Gravel Press), Furnace Mountain (Omerta), Ku: a thumb book (Airfoil Press) and Two: ghazals (Horse Less Press). Her book No Face: Selected and New Poems (First Intensity) appeared in 2008. She lives in Lawrence KS.

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