After-Cave by Michelle Detorie
a review/collage by Brenda Sieczkowski

Ahsahta Press
96 pages

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On the Process:

“It’s obvious,” Michelle Detorie writes in After-Cave, “the whole world is haunted” (51). Granted. And the process of reading and responding to Detorie’s poems did feel remarkably like invoking—inhabiting—a haunting. My impulse with the “feralscape” of After-Cave was to escape a consumption-of-words into production-of-words feedback loop. In “Fur Birds,” Detorie writes: “If you’re singing, there is the hoping that someone is listening to the words. The words shake down yellow from the trees, gather-scatter over concrete. There’s a fantasy of gathering them up in my arms, as if it were possible to hold them” (23). All through last fall and winter, lines from the book were burrowing in my head, so that, for example, as I walked the streets of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, a pool of fallen gingko leaves transformed into a “yellow paper dress.” I kept collecting scraps as they arrived. Paging through an old anatomy textbook from 1922, I was struck by how many of the original illustrations tinged bones in a pink cast (“There are so many pink bones…”). Gradually, my scraps assembled into the collage-response pictured here. The description of After-Cave on Ahsahta’s site professes that the book “introduces us to the distinction between a state of being and an act of being.” Although my collage response has now become fixed, quite literally glued, into place, its composition process felt closer to a state than an act of being. With the poems in my head, I keep roaming “the various streams of information seeking the live bits—hoping something sticks” (23).


Brenda Sieczkowski’s poems and creative essays have appeared widely in print and on-line journals, including The Colorado Review, Versal, The New England Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Diagram, The Florida Review, Bone Bouquet, The Seneca Review, Western Humanities Review, Gulf Coast, Dusie, Sidebrow, and Subtropics among others. Her essays have won awards from both Writers at Work and Knee-Jerk Magazine. She has published two chapbooks, Wonder Girl in Monster Land (dancing girl press, 2012) and Fallout & Flotation Devices (Little Red Leaves’ Textile Series, 2014). Like Oysters Observing the Sun, her full-length poetry collection, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014. Currently, she lives, teaches, and writes in Nebraska.