Afterpastures by Claire Hero (Caketrain, 2008) Caketrain is one of my favorite journals out there - Amanda and Joseph put together beautiful books full of lovely/weird/experimental writing, and I've never come away from an issue of Caketrain feeling let down. They also hold a chapbook contest each year, alternating between fiction and poetry, and in 2008 they published Claire Hero's Afterpastures. I read the chapbook once before when I first picked it up over a year and a half ago, and I recall feeling utterly lost on the first read-through. Not disliking the experience of being lost, per say, but being lost nonetheless. With this in mind, I selected this chapbook along with a few others to take a go at last night on my elliptical machine, reassuring myself that if I was too lost I could always just put the book down.
The first thing that struck me is that Hero's language is absolutely beautiful. She has an economy with words that I doubt I ever will, and I loved rolling each lovely one over on my tongue. There is certainly a dream-like quality to her work, a level of unrealness that perhaps tripped me up last time. In Afterpastures there is a strange and magical shifting between landscape and human body, human and wild beast, wild beast and domesticated, domesticated and wilderness, wilderness and urban landscape, and back to the human body again, each transformation crossing over into others. These themes, this transformative process, touched me this time in new ways. I loved watching the shifts and mutations of the speaker and her world throughout this book. I will say that there were still one or two places where I felt as though there was something going on that I had been left out of the loop on, but the sheer beauty of the out-of-the-loop-ness helped me drift through those spaces without frustration.
I highly recommend this chapbook, particularly if you're willing to spend some time getting to know it - it's well worth the knowing. It is presently out of print, but Caketrain often brings back books in a second printing or through free PDF versions on their website. I definitely would love to read more of Claire Hero's work (she has a full-length collection out from Noemi Press that I've linked to at her name) and am very glad I can back to Afterpastures.
Also! I am still on the lookout for more chapbooks to read and review! I've ordered a few this week, but would love suggestions for more - leave me a comment or drop me an email at myhyacinthgirl (at) gmail.com. I also have a couple full-length collections I'm working on longer reviews for, but those are longer in coming as they take longer to read and longer to write and cannot easily be finished on the elliptical machine.
Also also! Karen Lillis has added Virginia is for Lovers to her etsy shop! Yay!