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ISBN: 978-1-62557-718-4
Categories Chapbooks, Poetry

The Clearing

Publication Date: November 2022

About

Arriving to the pastoral happens repeatedly and full of worry in The Clearing. For the pastoral stands for the fields of the Holocaust, of the imagination, of the Midwest, of the body, and even the empty field of the blank page. In the absence of knowing how to properly bury our inheritances of the 20th century, Hiton turns to fictive spectacle—to narrative invention, sensory desires, and malleable landscapes—as a last gesture toward hope. As the intellectual ambitions and fears ramp up, the urgency of the body (and the refusal to look at it) does too.

FROM The Clearing

DREAM OF MY FATHER’S SHIVA, LAKE MICHIGAN, 1963

I pull a body out of the lake and it’s my size.
You are completely dry.
I drag you across the beach by the right arm
and right leg. I bring you to the shiva house.
It’s easy because you grip my hand.
I don’t have to do all the work.
Your other hand is missing fingers.
I trawl you back to the lake to find them.
Your freckles enumerate
and cluster, constellations, little myths
I flick off your skin like sand.
The sand dissolves into snow, which turns
to ice. I slide with you,
ice skating children playing on a snow day.
Faces of the family around the shiva table
seasons later, years later, waiting for us
to return from this desert of ice.
The hours, they come as an urn
to put you in. You do not fit
anywhere else—the mind, the house, the vase…
I am not prepared for the change:
when the grip tightens and then slacks,
it’s winter, it’s summer.

MOON CHILD

I think of these things to tell you when you are asleep:
Little pools of water filled with limbs. The sky is dull,
The sky in excess. I draw rings around your belly.

Sometimes I do things to you because I want you to do them to me.

In the morning, when you are still asleep, I reach my hand
Into your mouth, down through your chest. I turn your heart over.

Praise

Lisa Hiton’s poems bring me in close, then hurt me. To heal, to recover, to touch truths that have been denied, she reimagines a family’s history. “Obsessed with death, but having no desire to die,” her speaker pushes herself to see a super bloom out of ash filled ground. This sequence moves through tundra, heat, grief, and the surreal. It celebrates love, across painful expanses, that she will not let go. It’s a celebratory, queer collection. I am grateful for the way mourning rituals, in Hiton’s voice, become chants of persistence.
–Dan Kraines

Erotic and liturgical, the poems in Lisa Hiton’s chapbook The Clearing summon a Jewish North Shore of Chicago that shifts under iterative, imagined futures and pasts. Here, we continually mourn the speaker’s living father, who dies in several different Jewish histories; we reach past simple desire all the way inside the speaker’s lover to “turn [her] heart over.” Hiton’s evoked intimacies in The Clearing are precarious, dangerous, and heartbreakingly beautiful; in this, they match the world’s. In this dazzling chapbook (and all of Hiton’s oeuvre), I remain grateful for the poet’s commitment to capturing the ongoing instability of our safety—as Jews, as queer women, as daughters—alongside the blessed, profound joys of Jewish queer womanhood.
–Rachel Mennies

About the Author

Lisa Hiton

Lisa Hiton's first book of poems, Afterfeast, has been selected by Mary Jo Bang to win the Dorset Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press (October 2021). She holds an MFA in Poetry from Boston University and an MEd in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The CommonLambda Literary, The Paris-American, Denver Quarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, and New South among others. She has received the AWP Kurt Brown Prize, the Esther B Kahn Scholarship from 24Pearl Street at the Fine Arts Work Center, and multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Lisa is the author of the chapbook Variation on Testimony, the senior poetry editor of The Adroit Journal, and a founder and co-director of Queer Poem-a-Day at the Deerfield Public Library. The Clearing is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2022.

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