“One perfect autumn day I attended 11 funerals” starts Kate Eichhorn’s second book of poetry Fieldnotes, a forensic. Yet the story doesn’t exactly start here. On the inside of the book’s jacket, the reader enters the interior of a police department’s interview room, along with an investigator and an archivist. In the language and format of a screenplay, the investigator inquires after an anthropologist, who is both the subject of Fieldnotes and its narrator.
This poetry collection isn’t simply a book of poems. It’s a series of “story poems” that combine the mediums of film, filing, journal notes, documentation, dialogue, cataloguing, and scenes. Throughout the anthropologist reassembles lives from evidence of death. And, much like the evidence she finds, the anthropologist also categorizes her troubling personality: “I’ve suffered from sleep disturbances. Prodromal brooding. ‘Normal’ depression. Withdrawal. Anxiety. Depersonalization.” And the list continues.
Eichhorn writes with a precision that melds popular culture’s take on forensics with an ethnological and scientific perspective. Throughout, she builds up a poetics of patience and meticulousness in the practice of finding and classifying. This composition is emblematic of her research and writing on archiving and her teaching at The New School in New York.
Forensics permits the same kind of “looking” as her previous work Fond (BookThug, 2008) did; the pages are charged with topographical play and unhinging that is both lyrical and technical. Eichhorn leaves the reader with much to contemplate in how we discover, collect, and remember ourselves as well as the pieces of others. (Brooke Ford)
Kate Eichhorn, 112 pgs, BookThug, bookthug.ca, $18