During Poetry Month, Farrah Field and her husband Jared White (and their patient little boy) came to read at USM. I had just enough cash on hand to purchase one book, and went home with a signed copy of Wolf and Pilot that evening.
Trailer for the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo5wJcKvGQY
This book is a good combination of eerie, lovely and strange. The ever-present “we” who speak in the poems are four sisters: Elsianne, Matilda, Emaline and Aubrie. There are also a mother (who is “a witch”), a detective, and a teacher named Helen. The child-like voices guide us into a world of soil and skin and to an underground hideout. They speak of neglect, estrangement, and abuse but also of wonder at and fascination with the world.
Wolf and Pilot creates its own magical and threatening universe. The sisters seem to merge into one entity as the only inhabitants of this world — names are rarely used to distinguish one from the other, and at one point the speaker is chided, “Shh. You weren’t supposed to say my name” (The Girls Approach the Fence, 11).
The book is full of lovely lines, so I’ve picked out a few of my favorites to give you a taste:
“It’s easy to know when someone’s in your house: / listen for a tack being pulled form the wall and paper falling.” (The Girls Gather Around While He Sleeps, 7)
“Detective, we think you’re afraid of spiders. You’d be surprised / to know what things are in your shed. We think you should feed us. / […] / We’ve been eating your flowers. We’ll stop if you want us to. / Whatever you throw out, we’ll eat like raccoons. The tall one / / is a ballerina. Our mother never took pictures of us.” (The Girls Approach The Fence, 10)
“They think kindness could spare their lives. / Their tiny lives, tiny as wrists.” (The Teacher Explains Urgency To The Detective, 26)
In the end, the story is about the corruption of childhood, or the failure thereof — while the girls are clearly not treated well (one of them even dies), they manage to escape into a world of their own, into a secret place in the ground. “What is corrupt has to have something to corrupt” (Blood is Best When a Woman Is in Trouble, 43). Elsianne finally makes it out of the hole and into the other world, somehow, as she leaves for college. However, she still takes her own universe, their shared universe, with her wherever she goes: “Women on campus don’t like my dorm room. / The lights are never on. / My sisters crawl out from under the bed” (Elisanne Heads Off to a Bright Future, 55).
This book works so well because of its childlike earnestness, the consistency of voice, powerful end-stopped lines, and moments, here and there, where you cannot help but smile: “I bet you get headaches / thinking so much. / You’re the smartest person I know” (The Detective Wonders if He Said Something Wrong, 27).
I really enjoyed this book. If you can get your hands on a copy, grab it!