Kate Eichhorn. Fieldnotes, a forensic (BookThug 2010).
One of 3 BookThug titles finalists for the GG in 2011, Fieldnotes, a forensic is what the title promises, & also very hard on older eyes, with so many pages in half & quarter toned type. It also definitely tests one’s sense of what ‘poetry’ is, as it is mostly prose, or a kind of screenplay, with a few pages set as a very loose free verse. That it’s highly ‘poetic,’ I certainly wouldn’t deny, but it deliberately sets itself as an example of a specific ‘poetics,’ while eschewing much of what we end to identify as, well, lyric.
There are two major figures moving through the fragmented narrative(s), an anthropologist & an archivist, sometimes lovers, who meet, act, get into trouble with each other, & in the anthropologist’s case, in her field work in what seem often to be war zones. She (anthropologist) encounters other figures, & her larger story emerges in bits & pieces from the various moments filmed or videoed in those sections of the book. Other sections of prose & free verse comment in a fragmented fieldnote kind of way on what ‘I’ encounters & learns in her anthropological work. Here the political violence of post colonial struggle in the sites she studies put weight upon the implicit story Fieldnotes, a forensic tells.
The ‘forensic’ part of the book engages the perceptions & events that touch the anthropologist’s life, & through her the archivist’s. Where does their tangible yet interrupted affair (love isn’t mentioned but it may be present) lead? How does it impinge upon their ways of living? What ‘crime,’ if any, does this forensic seek to uncover? Fieldnotes, a forensic does not intend to answer these questions so much as to suggest that no manner of experimental research can ever fully do so even as a rendering of the chaotic fragmentation of memory & experience can begin to offer a sense of how things happen. There’s no ending (happy or not) to such an endeavour. Rather Fieldnotes, a forensic stops in media res just as it began. I found it fascinating in its ability to haul me into its story while denying me almost all the usual narrative hooks such a mystery conventionally holds.