Doll Studies: Forensics

Publication Date: January 2012


During the month of June, Black Lawrence Press will donate $1 to The Trevor Project for every copy of Doll Studies: Forensics sold through our website. This offer is good for both paperback and ebook versions of the collection.

Doll Studies: Forensics is a prose poetry collection based on artwork created by Frances Glessner Lee during the 1940’s. Lee constructed a series of dollhouse dioramas titled “The Nutshell Studies Of Unexplained Death.” Each diorama depicts a crime scene, littered with clues that may be used to solve the crime. Lee eventually began giving seminars in forensic medicine, and is sometimes referred to as the mother of modern forensic science. “The Nutshells” are housed in Baltimore, and were rarely examined until photographer Corinne May Botz began years of research into their creation. Carol Guess developed her prose poems in response to Botz’s photographs, giving voice and music to the dioramas and their dead.


“Carol Guess’ beautiful, sonically-charged studies are dynamic, dioramic boxes of words, where the fictive and the real revealingly complicate causes and effects, where everyday objects are persuaded to disclose their deeper truths, and where ‘clues collect, but you’ve got to be looking.'”

-Geoff Bouvier

“The paradox of proximity is in full force in Carol Guess’ brilliant Doll Studies. The miniaturization of crime scenes, the photographs of the details, and finally Guess’ investigations into these literal and psychic murders reveal the texture of suffering, and our attempts to frame the moments “between breathing and dying.” In these poems, “the idea is not to solve the crime” but “to see as at a museum”-and we do see, through Guess’ eyes, the startling beauty left behind like clues in wake of human violence. Overall, with Guess as our guide, we are given a stark tour of the end, and yet strangely filled “with peace because [we are] only watching.”

-Allison Benis White

“Nuanced and surprising, beautiful and unnerving, the poems in Doll Studies: Forensics offer worlds inside worlds. Vantage opens up like a set of nesting dolls: poem to photograph, diorama to crime scene, past to present, representation to reality. Perspective shifts between witness, suspect, victim, and investigator as Carol Guess uses the void created by death to explore the details of what it means to live. Here, the known and the inexplicable echo equally inside our made and unmade rooms. Elegantly, insistently, these poems reveal the power of attention when curiosity is anything but idle.”

-Lisa Olstein

“Carol Guess warns us “What I wrapped for you is bleeding” and she makes good on it. Doll Studies presents a poetics of murder in which tenderness and horror equally exist. In these rich prose poems, Guess leads us into rooms where we should not be and has the gifts to show us the secrets that are hidden there. It is a pleasure to be haunted by this book.”

-Andrew Grace

About the Author

Carol Guess

Carol Guess is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose. Recent Black Lawrence Press titles include Doll Studies: Forensics and With Animal (in collaboration with Kelly Magee). Forthcoming books include a short story collection, Sleep Tight Satellite (Tupelo Press), and a hybrid collaboration with Rochelle Hurt, Book of Non (Broadstone Books). A frequent collaborator, she writes across genres and illuminates historically marginalized material. In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She is Professor of English at Western Washington University, where she teaches Queer Literature and Creative Writing.

Visit Author Page