A review of

Incarnate: Story Material

by Thalia Field

Central question: Where was the only battle fought on U.S. soil during WWII?
Format: 126 pp, paperback; Size: 6" x 9"; Price: $15.95; Publisher: New Directions; Editor: Declan Spring; Print run: 1,500; Book designer: Sylvia Frezzolini Severance; Number of parentheses between pages 15 and 19: 362; Plane crash on page 64: Alaska Airlines Flight 737 Collides with Salmon Dropped By Eagle; Representative passage: “as zoos get upgraded with scented toys / and other props, artificial snowbanks and “real” carcasses / eliciting new repertoire and better performances / for the captive audience / and still the keepers wonder why hiding remains most / critical to the survival of the animals”

Thalia Field’s Incarnate: Story Material is comprised of fourteen texts differing markedly in voice, style and genre, yet it coheres internally through thematic recursions and aesthetic inventiveness throughout. In the poem “Autocartography,” Field has searched her proper name on the web and “found herself” elsewhere, discovering alter-egos in all manner of “thalia fields and related sites.” Woven throughout the poem is the story of Comanche captive Cynthia Anne Parker, as well as percussive directives—Make a Rain of This, Make a Dwelling, Make a Hunt, Make a Video Game—which read as both playful invitations and pedagogical assignments. (Field is a professor and a practitioner of page performance. Among other things she teaches a class on page-as-proscenium called “Performance Dimensions of Text” at Brown University.) In “Flickering,” a swarm of parentheses surface like newts or water insects encircling and splitting off from each other. The haunting title poem “Incarnate,” defines hell as prison. The numerology of suffering and abjection is figured: 44,435,556 are the number of demons in hell—more than the number of humans incarcerated on earth: approximately eight million.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Miranda F. Mellis

Miranda F. Mellis is an editor at Encyclopedia (encyclopediaproject.org). Her writing has appeared in BeeHive, Cabinet, the Kenyon Review, Fence, h2so4, Denver Quarterly, and Blithe House Quarterly.

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