Click through for a review of BEAR STORIES, the sixth in my full-press review series of Calamari Press.
First, let’s get this out of the way: BEAR STORIES by J’Lyn Chapman is sold out from Calamari, and currently shows no copies left at SPD. Maybe Powell’s? In any case, I need to get that off my chest at the start of this review because this is a book I would tell you to buy, were it available.
J’Lyn Chapman’s BEAR STORIES is a deliciously sharp and manic chapbook. It rises and falls over its 36-pages, housing close to the same number of micro-fictions, and eats me as it unfolds. Chapman carries here a voice that defines and defies, is working to connect us to our animal-insides but in a non-linear and almost prophetic manner.
‘My mouth is full of rabbits. Their taste is dust and grass. The sensation is moths. Their skittish movement dissolves until I forget they are there entirely, making a warren of tongue and gums. I am a mother or a place. I am an event copulating and then some die. They are all sizes. Do you remember the meadow where they were fat and small and the grey ones made their way into our imagination?’
We become a bear and we separate from the bear. We learn about the bear and we are broken from and by the bear – its claws, its teeth, its tendencies. Chapman carefully crafts each section, each portion, so that even under the slight rain of these flash fictions I feel drenched in forest, coated in nature – I feel the back of the bear’s throat as I travel down it.
‘In the dark, a body is a pond. The night birds make hollow sounds, and then there is the sound of the mouth, pulled back, curled out. And so on. Fur catches the moon as it comes out barbed and dark. A vertical cut whines under the ribs, and the long grass keeps it from you’
And too, while we have been talking a bit recently about poetry v. prose (see the conversation here), Chapman’s BEAR STORIES is a great example of how prose can be poetic, how poetry can be prose, and how in the end, if the work is good and grinding and well-worded and beautiful, the label is irrelevant.
‘I saw something die slowly. O, specific world in a dense abstraction: honeybees and the eriastrum make a storm system. I saw something like cannibalism: a squirrel eat a sparrow. The grid and viscera in my breath pattern. I matched it to the sheen of your star stories. I had such rapacity. You know, charm. And I was held by its blaze. I wanted it to make a difference, that is, seduction’
BEAR STORIES is gone, but if you can find a copy, buy a copy – it is full of the most gorgeous momentum.
Next up, THE NIGHT I DROPPED SHAKESPEARE ON THE CAT. Stay tuned.