Escaping the Body by Chloe N. Clark
Interstellar Flight Press (March 7, 2022)
118 pages; $12.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Chloe N. Clark is the author of Collective Gravities, Under My Tongue, Your Strange Fortune, and The Science of Unvanishing Objects. Her forthcoming books include Every Song a Vengeance and My Prayer is a Dagger, Yours is the Moon. She is a founding co-EIC of literary journal Cotton Xenomorph. Her favorite basketball player will always be Rasheed Wallace and her favorite escape artist can only be Houdini. Her newest collection, Escaping the Body, is a tour de force exploring the physical body and the liminal spaces between one’s soul and one’s skin and bones.
On the outset, Clark’s poems read like a woman’s musings on childhood and young adulthood. For example, a poem like “It’s the Horror of My Friends That We Say Mean Things About Blondes” implies some coming to terms with childhood rivalries and whatnot. However, that’s how Clark lures unsuspecting readers closer and then ensnares them with her lines:
when people say our names,
we don’t always answer
because giving in to a name
is being devoured by it,
we like it best when you
make our names sound like
sacrifice, like falling through black
holes and being pulled apart
without knowing it
Poems like this take a simple story and expand it, making it seem mythic and terrifying. This is Clark’s power as a poet, twisting the commonplace and ordinary into something dark and haunting for the reader.
Clark is also able to start with a horror trope and just run with it until the reader has nightmares. A poem like “The Undue Acidity in Your Veins” begins with a nightmare scenario and just builds from there:
The doctor tells us that I need
to learn how to cut into
my own skin.
“If she can’t do it now, she
won’t be able to do it when
she has to.” He says to you
not to me.
This idea, that a young woman would need to learn how to cut herself and scar her body on demand, while an apt metaphor for how society treats women, is very terrifying. However, Clark’s poem doesn’t stop there, and stanza after stanza, things get worse for the heroine in the poem while the reader is forced to watch in horror.
Escaping the Body is a phenomenal book of poetry. While not every poem in the collection is a horror poem in the truest sense, the overall collection is a dark vision which haunts the reader well after the covers have closed. Chloe N. Clark is able to take things that seem innocent and twist them into fantastic torments for her readers. Anyone who is a fan of horror poetry or poetry in general will count themselves lucky to have partaken of this tome.