Sentences and Fragments: Evelyn Hampton’s WE WERE ETERNAL AND GIGANTIC

Magic Helicopter Press, 32 pages, $5.00

Many whiles ago a copy of this chapbook arrived in the mail, with a tiny little piece of notebook paper (complete with frayed left-hand edge from being ripped from a spiral binding), and on this piece of paper, a personal note from Evelyn herself. It appears that Evelyn hand-typed the note on a typewriter, and I’ve always loved that. As pretty much generally always happens when I receive a free book, little pleasure chills tickled my spine.

I have to admit, too, that the back cover copy made me think to myself, “Awesome!” This little chapbook, from Magic Helicopter Press, is described like this:
“Slippery when tender and wise as light squared, Evelyn Hampton’s We Were Eternal and Gigantic knows what the heart is for: it’s for beating someone in the alley.”
Who wouldn’t want to dive in and devour?

So it is my pleasure now to be able to write a few words here about some of Evelyn’s poems.

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Birkensnake 2

Birkensnake 2 CoverI met Joanna Ruocco at her release gathering for The Mothering Coven. After her reading, she gave me a copy of the latest issue of Birkensnake. She’s one of the editors there and she told me that she had bound the book herself. It’s a lovely object that was both blowtorch-singed, and sprayed, I think, with some kind of toxic (is there any other kind?) fixative.

Birkensnake 2 opens with Michael Stewart’s “The Children’s Factory,” a beguiling short short with no shortage of underlying menace. The factory’s machines here are “run by tiny hands. In the bowels. In the guts. In the very intestinal tract of it…” and the “Devil only knows what their great machine does—other than wheeze and breathe.” Though it easily works as a standalone piece, it also felt like it could be a fragment of a much larger narrative.

An excerpt from Danielle Dutton’s novel A World Called the Blazing World follows. It’s about Margaret Cavendish, a polymath who lived in England in the 17th century. Besides being Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne she was a prolific writer who wrote poetry, philosophy, prose romances, essays, plays, and she also wrote a proto-science fiction novel, The Blazing World. Dutton is a wonderful stylist who writes sentences to luxuriate in:

The trip to Oxford was made in the dead of night. Kisses on the lawn at St. John’s Green. A perfect summer gloom of vegetal bravado: peonies, bugloss, native beetles singing.

[…]

Then someone cleared his throat—and Margaret saw she was in an alternate universe whirring far into space: African servants, poets, dogs in silken caps, platonic ideals, sparkling conversation, aristocratic ladies “half-dressed, like angels,” and ivy-coated quadrangles with womanizing captains, dueling earls, actors.

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