The art museum in my hometown of Knoxville has a collection of Narcissa Thorne dioramas, miniature rooms of various fashion and purpose, similar to doll houses. There is a Victorian parlor, a Spanish foyer, a frontier kitchen, all meticulously detailed and like the collection room itself, mostly devoid of people. Each illuminated box presents a stage where any number of actions can take place. The rooms rely on the many arrangements of our imagination—who sat in the armchair, who leaned on the mantelpiece—all the possible scenarios laid out and invisible like precious crime scenes. Yet despite the dramatic combinations an empty stage can offer it’s still bound by purpose: the kitchen is where you cook, the bedroom is where you sleep, and the armchair is where you left it. In the opening poem of Wolf and Pilot—not coincidently inspired by one of Thorne’s rooms—Farrah Field writes:
could walk in on a daily basis, mount a war-period wall clock,
pollute the cold kitchen with pork dumplings, heat the toilet seat.
The poems in Field’s second collection both accept and challenge this mystery. They investigate the nature of absence, the human need to satiate a vacuum, and the gnarled process of memory and apprehension. Centered around four missing sisters, their witch-mother, their beloved teacher and the detective enlisted to find them, Wolf and Pilot is a novella-in-verse which defies its own narrative boundaries.
Echoing Pirandello’s Six Characters, the speakers in Field’s poems are inextricable from the theater of their lives. As per the demands of the story they follow a certain direction, confined to prescribed roles (“What are you supposed to do besides what you have to?”), but this doesn’t stop them from confronting—sometimes bravely, sometimes with caution—their psychological limitations (“We’ll never say this: we want to hang/a sheet from a tree and project movies”). There are moments when the characters are brimming with awareness, their ambitions and failures on display. “You think I’d know what to do,” the detective says, “because I agreed to take care of them.”
July 19th, 2013 / 11:00 am