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Motherhood is bound both to life’s joy and death’s ether, which complicates a woman’s relationship to her own body’s emotional and physical permeablity. In Look Look Look Callista Buchen writes beautiful prose fragments about and the tendrils that bind her to motherhood and that intersection with mortality. This moving collection situates motherhood as a climate, a destination and reminds us that many of the connections bodies make are often as ephemeral as “clouds made of mouths.”
—Carmen Giménez Smith
Drawing from surrealism, the grotesque, and even horror, Callista Buchen’s Look Look Look explores how alien one’s own body—one’s own self—becomes through pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. In these prose poems, Buchen’s mother-speaker “build[s] and dissolve[s],” is both “double and half.” The line between self and other, the line between construction and deconstruction, and “[t]he line between making and being made” have never felt so thin, so permeable. This is a profound book of poems.
In this ravishingly honest collection of prose poems, Callista Buchen look look looks at every facet of mothering, from child loss to childbirth, from loss of self and alienation from the body to a hard-won and completely unsentimental empowerment—mother as process; “mother as birthplace, where woman becomes location.” The poems are often dimly lit as a diorama or a womb. They embrace pregnancy’s darkness, the monstrous cleaving of the birthing body, the milky flood of nursing, and the complex grief of the self that is estranged in the making of another human being. The poems have the rhythm and image-centeredness of ritual; even the book’s title is a trinity, suggesting the multifocality of women’s experience and functioning as an entreaty for the reader to look, please. When the speaker comes into her authority it arrives less with triumph than with danger: “There isn’t a dam you can build that I can’t break. Charisma, chiasma, power. See what I will do.” This is a book about mothering like no book about mothering that has ever been mothered forth.
A mother is full of cracks, this vessel. Everywhere tears, everywhere salt, writes Callista Buchen’s in her stunning debut collection, Look Look Look. In these poems, Buchen does not look away from motherhood, body, or loss—but stares directly in its eyes. These stirring poems radiate both the beauty and burn of being a mother, two selves of a woman—they meditate, Your body is not your own. Look Look Look brings us, birthed and swaddled, the poems we need in the world right now. This incredible collection is fed by an honesty and a fierceness mothers and women know deep inside them—I am so dangerous. I cannot remember the last time I finished a collection and wanted to return to the start to read it again—but this is that book. I will return to these poems for years. I cannot recommend this book enough.
—Kelli Russell Agodon