Sunday, January 26, 2020

Poem366: “A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth” by Kolleen Carney Hoepfner



A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth by Kolleen Carney Hoepfner

A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth by Kolleen Carney Hoepfner, Indiana: Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2019

I just finished A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth by Kolleen Carney Hoepfner, and it was a fascinating immersion into a world I both did and didn’t recognize.

The chapbook appears to be composed of one long poem, broken up into numbered sections and separate, untitled pieces. These parts of the poem have lush, imagistic language, but they don’t aim to answer any questions; they just offer a tense, worrisome scene with plenty of rather terrifying details.

In the book, a woman seems to be locked up in a place that isn’t clear. She seems to be alone, but then she doesn’t. There is a feeling that time is passing and she is losing hope, but still paying attention to her senses and trying to find ways to bolster her resolve:

The best she could do
was remember how fucking close
she had come
to escape

It’s easy to imagine the frustration that is the closest thing to hope one can have in a nearly hopeless situation. Writes Hoepfner,

She had underested the wind,
the scent of some beloved

but long-lost master

      (or, on the other hand,
shivering and wakeful,
                  the blood-smell
                  of a dream full of teeth,
   hungry but not yet desperate).

At this point, the literal was mostly lost to me (whose master? And who smells the blood?). The best plan of action I’ve found when lost in a poem is to lean in and accept its premises, while trusting that something will happen—there will be explanations, or the sense of the poem will be enough, or you’ll re-read it and everything will click. And this book captured tension better than any I could remember, from poetry at least; it read like a thriller, but with the deeper emotional resonance of a poem.

Something happens midway through the book and involves blood, and it feels like a clue to the literal:

Until clotted, blood
      was as slippery as oil. […]

Her agenda was not complicated:

a quick escape

unconsciousness               death

The growing feeling of fury:

She could feel
that hot, electrical tingle

like a live thing
clinging

with many teeth

There is real drama in the sparse syntax, and as a reader, I’m rooting for this woman, and wondering who she is and what kind of trouble she has found herself in.

All was made clear on the acknowledgments page, which explained, “This collection is comprised of found poetry, using Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game as a source.” In Gerald’s Game, as I recall, a woman’s husband dies after chaining her to a bed during sex, and she is left to figure out how to escape. I won’t spoil it for you, but the slippery blood is a relevant plot point.

What fascinated me about this collection was how accurate and familiar it felt to anyone who has experienced sexual violence and domination. King’s source material was not relevant to the deep appreciation I felt for the emotional truth and the tense quasi-narrative. Hoepfner is the artist at work here, and she is masterful at it.

5 comments:

  1.  This is a great article and your blog is also very interesting. Thank you. GoMovies

    ReplyDelete
  2. That reminds me of the LIAR
    (who's fulla deceit).
    Know who I mean?
    El Diablo.
    The Snake.
    The one who
    was kicked-out
    of Seventh-Heaven
    for diss-obeying God -
    archangels should never
    disobey God. They have
    the power to VitSee...
    GBY

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry. I wish you well! Mental health is precious, and it's so hard when we have these kinds of struggles with it. I know you'll find peace in time. <3

      Delete
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