Escaping the Body by Chloe N. Clark is the poet’s fifth published collection of poetry. Clark is a founding Co-EIC of the literary journal Cotton Xenomorph. She writes poetry and fiction, and some essays about food, mostly, but also does critical scholarship in the history of horror, gender and science fiction, monstrosity and othering, and inclusive practices in pedagogy.
Clark mentions in her introduction that Houdini is her favorite escape artist. His quotes along with those of other magicians including his namesake separate each section. The theme of escape and illusion flows through the poetry. “Missing Girl Found” consists of stanzas of various possible outcomes. First with the most feared result and then with other outcomes ranging from the missing girl is found wanting, or found beautiful, or found happy, or, or, or… Her treatment of the poems leaves a bit of mystery and fantasy with mentions of faeries and Melusine. The youthful willingness to see magic all around us is stifled by age and everyday routine. Clark uses magicians to create pathways for our escape. Those magicians come in many forms — the actual magician, a forest, monsters, and myths. Escaping the Body is much more a return to youthful acceptance of our surroundings rather than a New Age separation of body and spirit. She relates to simple things as important and deserving of attention. We all have our “Rosebud” somewhere in our past. “Flight” seemed to be the keystone poem for me tying together much of her work.
The theme of escaping the flesh runs through the collection. The reader will also get reasons why escape is wanted in “Error Coding” and “But Also This is Why the Robots Always Turn on Us.” There is a wide range to Clark’s writing while keeping in her theme. At the start, I wondered if this was poetry a middle-aged male would read, but quickly I fell into the groove and enjoyed the journeys. The writing is deep and intelligently thought through. We are led to escape our personal chains and traps in much the same way as Houdini escaped his chains and straitjackets. An excellent collection of contemporary poetry that will appeal to traditional poetry lovers.