Welcome back, Callista Buchen!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Callista Buchen, author of the poetry collection Look Look Look, which will be published in late 2019. This will be Callista’s second book with Black Lawrence Press.
Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

IMG_4253The Author

Callista Buchen is the author of poetry chapbooks The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, October 2015) and Double-Mouthed (dancing girl press, April 2016). She is the winner of DIAGRAM‘s essay contest and the Lawrence Art Center’s Langston Hughes award, with work appearing in Harpur PalateFourteen HillsPuerto del SolSalamanderWhiskey Island Review, and many other journals. She teaches English and creative writing at Franklin College in Indiana.

On writing Look Look Look

When I became a mother, I thought at first that I might have to stop being a writer. I saw that everything that I had thought I understood, about myself, about my life, about my place in the world, about the nature of identity itself, had been mistaken. The prose poems of this collection began as an attempt to understand what had been lost and why. As part of the writing process, this project grew. I found myself taking more and more imaginative leaps. While the collection comes from this experience of motherhood, it became a wider investigation of the nature of identity, including its construction and its instability. The poems became attempts at self-determination, a way to bring a new self into being.
The collection is interested in what forces, internal and external, cultural and social, encourage and resist multi-faceted identities, especially when it comes to being a mother and a woman and an individual and how to be all of these things, exploring what is required of women in a culture that reduces them, through motherhood (among other social constructions), to objects and containers. The poems celebrate, too, the female body and its mystery and power. Writing the book was elegiac and restorative, except that in the world of these poems, to restore sometimes means to dismantle and build anew. For me, that is the big question: what happens when what one believes to be stable is destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed again? I wrote these poems to try to understand a kind paradox, to find a way to be, at once, both more vulnerable and more powerful than I had imagined.


Woman: be permeable, be ocean, be habitat. Instead of woman, say starfish. Find a tide pool. New limbs in place of those you’ve lost (as if misplaced, as if not dead, as if not plucked from your body, as if not woman). Crawl away with what remains, sink, scale, absorb each place. Woman, cover your arms in starfish, wear them across your chest, latched into your hair, be invisible, be sea. Let the salt crack across your skin. Cradle the water, what flows in and back, watch for reflexes. There will be enough loveenough everything, they say in support group, there will be enough, but woman, woman, keep track of your arms.
(originally appeared in Puerto del Sol)
Each form she fills out asks for the number of pregnancies, the number of live births. Even at the optometrist’s, the numbers don’t match. She reminds the husband to condition the brown leather couch, to cover the blood stains, but he runs out of cream, forgets to go to the store. They pretend the marks are lemonade, olive oil, pasta sauce. She is always spilling, the first child is always sticky with peanut butter.
When the second child dies before he is born, before he had fingerprints, when he was a kidney bean or kumquat with webbed fingers, the third child becomes the second child. She pretends to have forgotten the thud and splash as she scrambled to the toilet, bleeding like a dog, the horrible, resolved decision to flush. The way, when she first heard, she felt better. How after she had nothing to hold.
The third child that is the second child, any day now. She smiles like people do when they say that. She thinks about the gray strings of tissue that took weeks to leave her body, the way something can die and be dead and not thought of for a long time, except how it changes the words, how you could read the future, study the tissue like tea leaves, and watch it change.
(originally appeared in Salt Hill)
Quick Change
She keeps her body around the house. There is body in the coat closet in the hall by the front door, body under the bed in plastic bins, a pile in the garage by the recycling bin. The spares, she calls them. She misplaces her body like she loses her keys. She releases it, lets her body carry her from this room to that, lets her body stretch until it must be replaced. It is better this way, she says, slipping into a fresh one as the baby cries. I never have to worry about being recognized.
(originally appeared in The Offing)