“The feminist movement as at present instituted is Inadequate. Women if you want to realize yourselves—you are on the eve of a devastating psychological upheaval—all your pet illusions must be unmasked—the lies of centuries have got to go—are you prepared for the Wrench—? There is no half-measure—NO scratching on the surface of the rubbish heap of tradition, will bring about Reform, the only method is Absolute Demolition. Cease to place your confidence in economic legislation, vice-crusades & uniform education—you are glossing over Reality. Professional & commercial careers are opening up for you—Is that all you want?” [Mina Loy, 1914]
Reading Natalee Caple’s Love in the Chthulucene (Cthulhucene) I was reminded of this fierce bequest/rallying cry of female Modernist writers like Loy and Djuna Barnes to dismantle, to demolish and yet not without the cosseting of community, a mostly-female environs of compatriots who nourish one amid the ruins. I won’t pretend to “understand” many of these texts, most of which are composed for specific individuals and which can thus sometimes seem self/other referential, inside whispers of personal allusiveness, but I think I was able to access the motivation for this mode of composition at least. Writers make worlds. These worlds aren’t always easy nor should they be, but at their best, their rhythms, imagery, and uniquely instinctive perspectives offer the reader another way, not necessarily “in” but just to “be” around and through. Caple begins with an address “I say, hey you, Mind-haver!” and proceeds to elaborate a collection that pastiches/collages lyrics, idioms, vocalizations, repetitions, strange archaisms and an array of drawings of various individuals, from the deceased writer Priscilla Uppal to the contemporary creator Lillian Allan. There is no means by which I can sum up this book nor do I want to. You may find everything in here from the awkwardly poignant and sentimental (“You lick the back of my knees/I touch your fingers….I will write you a slim letter/someday”) to a glossalalic haibun reminiscent of Lisa Robertson (“Defamedish! I spent years in/unscissored saturniid protozoal meadows disparaging the institution/of erectory) to instructions (“for forgetting:/Write everything down on water), to lists as in the piece “44 things to throw away and instantly improve your life” to pieces with performance notes (“ask the audience to scream or cry. Pretend to hear nothing”). There are overt/undercurrent statements of politics, memory, desire, motherhood (including illustrations by her daughter and one of my faves, an “Accidental Poem by Casey” – her son – which features a “city behind your ear), and a visual essay of sorts that opens itself to recombinations amid powerful lines like “make life sounds/until no child burns.” I may be saying too much without saying much of anything here. Caple’s book is an experience, what Sina Queyras refers to as a “poetics of inquiry” and Caple is what Annie Finch might proudly call a “post modern poetess,” a writer concerned deeply with the gaps between pre-fab language and the random lavishness of the lived moments in a woman’s marked body.