The Dottery is a tale of dotters before they are born. In this series of prose poems you meet their would-be-mutters, the buoys they will know, their inner warden, and the mutterers who cannot have them. The Dottery itself is a sort-of pre-purgatory, a finishing school for the fetal feminine. The five sections correspond to the conceptual set-ups interrogated within. In “wound,” The Dottery is described, as are its inhabitants and their difficulties. In “Dual,” a gender binary is introduced and (hopefully) eviscerated. “Triage” establishes the issues that plague both the dotters and those who would bring them out into the world—specifically into the idea of America (I’m Erica and I can prefer a hummer to the rose parade”). In “Fear,” failed dotters (out in the world) are described in obit fashion. Finally, in “Thief” one mutterer recounts how she stole her dotter (“a snatched piece”) to become a mutter and chronicles both her desires and regrets.
Contemporary science asserts that environment affects human life just as much as DNA; 'The Dottery' asserts that western culture interrogates women even before they emerge from the womb. This collection, perhaps fantasy, perhaps closer to garish reality than readers would like to admit, teaches that non-judgmental love is the one (flawed) redemption. In a last Mutter/Dotter interaction, Kaschock writes: 'When it is time to go I offer my hand. She wraps it in a napkin, tucks it into her pocket.' This is a long moan for love, and readers must accept its laced, metallic sweetness.
A lot of fun to read. Kaschock captures the truth of how we come to terms with our masks—imperfectly.
Inventive and exhilarating, Kirsten Kaschock's The Dottery tells the story of mutters and dotters in fresh, bracingly original language. Dolls, surrogates, goldie (who 'was lock, lock, locked') and mannequins play out this keen allegory of gender in ways that are both astonishing and terrifying. Kaschock is an alchemist—you will be changed.
The Dottery is a living book of confrontational, formally inventive risks. Reading it is to become a believer in the relational, permeable body and not get hung up on whether or not that body is human before we decide to love it, to touch it, to accept that it may create us, then kill us, then feel the wound in its own side.
Irreverent, irrepressible, and intelligent, The Dottery subjects the identity we call 'daughter' to a deeply feminist skepticism. Yet Kaschock's slightly loony allegories and mocking manifestoes belie a deep tenderness for the wounds dealt to women by sex and gender. Dear dotters, mutters, buoys, and men, you won't regret entering The Dottery, though you won't leave unscathed.
Kirsten Kaschock is the author of two previous books of poetry: Unfathoms and A Beautiful Name for a Girl. She is also the author of a novel, Sleight, and the chapbook WindowBoxing. Kaschock teaches at Drexel University and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.learn more