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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Claire Hero Shears and Shears: Dollyland

Claire Hero's newest chap from Tarpaulin Sky 

Claire Hero's newest collection Dollyland features 15 poems about that once dearly- beloved clone of clones, Dolly the Sheep and if Dolly the Sheep opened a theme park, Hero could outfit the House of Horrors with verses such as these: "Below us the dollys wriggle over the earth, white as maggots. I cannot remember a time when we were not climbing Dolly always. Below us the dollys devour the white Wounds of the earth." 

Claire Hero's previous collection from Noemi Press, Sing, Mongrel also dealt in this scape of beasts. Her language rests hoofed and cloven as she takes us in hand to wander in the bones and muscles of that domesticated wilderness of the animal song. 

Dollyland is composed of 15 prose poems; the construction of the chapbook small enough so that each poem fills the white space on the page. Opening the first poem "The Making of Dolly" is the reminder that "Never was it a questions of not." But dwelling in philosophical and ethical platforms about cloning is less the subject of this text as is the terrain of actually inhabiting what is the dark underbelly of a thing found first not in nature but in the lab. What is the animal and what is the image; Dolly the sheep existed as an idea to far more people than the actual living creature; and Dolly encompassed that symbol of the first step into a world previously only found in the covers of sci-fi novels. Science, religion, politics and belief came to the forefront in the unlikely form of a sheep, a wooly being through which we worked out our dark need to control and contain the shape of life and death. 

Claire Hero engages that darkness; her use of the word dolly repetitively toys with that notion of the plaything. Dolly was our clone toy; we watched to see what would happen to her. Hero's language hooks on the play of words as she twists and turns into the symmetry of her particular surreal imaginings:

Sometimes the fleece falls open & I see inside Her. Her
wreckage of ribcage & staircase. Her factory of small 
parts. Conduit & spool. Sometimes the fleece falls
open & I see a dazzle of pasture. A needle & a wound

(from inside Dolly)

There is a strange metamorphosis that occurs in the body of the poems, in the body of a thing repeated as we trot out language to see how it fits in this particular arrangement. Hero lets the wound stay open, she allows the reader to fall into the abyss, a bit terrible and also bitten down into the mouthfuls that she shoves in repeatedly. In this place, we are the beast, we are the faulty construction, we are the ones supplying the wool against the cold night and we are the ones choking on how much we swallow: "Hunger is the Eye of Dolly & we feed it. We feed it ourselves. Deeper & deeper we glide into the darkling Eye. Look at me, Dolly, I say, & the Eye says, Look at me." (from the Eye of Dolly)

Dolly the sheep is a doll--never to be played with but subject to our gaze-- behind glass in the National Museum of Scotland:

The poem "the Vagina of Dolly" reminds us that Doll'ys body is an object and by comparison-- the female body is stripped down so it is meat and product, commodity, not a thing of purpose or design, but instead: "ground up for fertilizer. Is taxidermied for the Royal Museum." Hero wades into the debate by first destabilizing the reader with her surreal images stacked up and seductive in their syllabic repetitions and meanderings, but in this is the subtle rejoinder, the subtext which questions what becomes of the body when science supplants the function. How is power traded and who profits and who is simply "on display." In the objectification of the female body lies the clue to Dolly's name: 

The name "Dolly" came from a suggestion by the stockmen who helped with her birth, in honor of Dolly Parton, because it was a mammary cell that was cloned. (

I feel like this Zombie from the Second Season of The Walking Dead when I read Claire Hero's poems. 
I'm shearing my face off to get to them.
 I can't get enough. 

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