Poetry News

Elisa Gabbert on Farrah Field's Wolf and Pilot

By Harriet Staff


At Lemon Hound, Elisa Gabbert points the spotlight at Farrah Field's newest collection of poems, Wolf and Pilot, published by Four Way Books. Wolf and Pilot is a collection of poems that tells the story of four sisters who might be runaways, their witchy mother, and the detective whose task it is to find them. Gabbert writes:

In the book’s closing notes, we learn that the first poem’s details are based on a Narcissa Thorne diorama. It makes perfect sense that Field would find inspiration in dioramas (from the Greek roots di-, “through,” and orama, “that which is seen, a sight”), because the poems in Wolf and Pilot have the feel of a scale replica—perfect and delicate like dollhouse rooms. And in “Dalebound,” there’s an embedded effect: We watch the dolls peer into their own diorama, a miniaturized view of the future.

What are Field’s dioramas made of? Words, of course, and stanzas (Italian for “room”). But also textures—grass, wool, leather, linen. And references—the word “dalebound” is borrowed from a Ross Brighton poem. And Dickinsonian feathers—hope is usually reserved for the future, but these girls look for hope in their past. (Outside of our unreliable memories, the past is as gone to us as the future.)

Every particular makes sense within the box, with its one open wall for us to peer through (“Someone’s always watching,” Emaline says, “but never where you think.”). But they have uncertain reference to the larger outside world. Do these objects represent reality, reflect and refract it, or does life imitate art? (“We are the girls,” they say. “Everything in the world points to us.”) In our world, up a level, “just like heaven” is a reference to The Cure, but does The Cure exist in the world of the box? Probably not—though the box does have pizza and friendship bracelets, other paraphernalia of pre-teen sleepovers. The girls are older now, old enough for drinks, but not too old to indulge in funereal fantasies, where one discovers who really loved you, and if you’ll be missed.

In Wolf and Pilot, Emaline, the third child, who was in love with the detective, is the one who dies, via some kind of spell or a suicide, creating the hole that is “never reoccupied.” Size is always important in these poems, is often the point (“Their tiny lives, tiny as wrists”). And in mourning, the girls and their world become even smaller:

Walking around a grieving household
makes you think it could be picked up
in the palm and put in the oven.
Come on, little house. Say something.
Father, Mother, Sister, Sister, Sister, Dead Sister.

If Ana Bozicevic’s poetry reveals patterns of thought, Farrah Field’s reveals patterns of feeling: the magic spell she casts to shrink life-size hurt and terror into something you could hold in your hand, put in a locket.

Read Gabbert's review in its entirety at Lemon Hound; purchase a copy of Farrah Field's Wolf and Pilot from Four Way Books.