Chloe N. Clark is a storyteller poet who, in Your Strange Fortune, has crafted an overarching narrative through individual poems. It begins with her framing device, made obvious in the table of contents, where you see that the collection is broken into four parts: past, present, future, now. The epigraph for the book is credited to “Fortune Cookie, circa pre-collapse,” before she whisks you into a series of poems that feel like fairytales.
The Right Kind of Fairytale
This motif of the fairytale and mythology underlying poems that very much have things to say about our world today becomes first obvious in “Boy Meets Monster”, which plays out as a visceral condemnation of men who do nothing in the face of injustice toward women. Concealing the point beneath fairytale makes the payoff that much more incisive, such as when she asks the question, “What, though, of those boys / who see the monsters and think / nothing of them?”
Later, in the section “Present” whose epigraph comes from a Magic 8 Ball, Clark notes, “I remember that life is a series of / falls.” These poems are not the Disney-fied modern fairytale, they are throwbacks to Hans Christian Andersen’s originals. Dark, claustrophobic, entrapping. In the same poem as the previous quote she goes on to say,
Later, I will pull a shard of porcelain
from my fingertip and there will be
a split second before
the blood wells out, when
I can imagine that I might
There we find the escape a myth offers, but only fleetingly, as any false hope of a cut will draw blood. Following that, while considering human futility, Clark notes, “In dreams you should, at least, / be able to please the dead.” The stories told in each poem build and coalesce until you realize Clark has complete control over the reader’s footsteps, realization dawning that there will be an arrival through this darkened forest. Yet the other side may not hold light, hope. In “The Rhyme We Told as Children” she concludes with, “Finally I / remember the prompt. He said to write about something haunted. So I wrote / about you.” And finally, with the collection’s penultimate poem, Clark clues us in to the secret that we all know, for as often as we might forget it: “stories beg to be heard.” Perhaps especially those the world often hides in darkness.
When considering what Clark has accomplished here, there will be no begging necessary for me to return to the world of dark fantasy she has wrought in these aching, luminous poems. I will return gladly, a martyr to the cause.
Your Strange Fortune is published by Vegetarian Alchoholic Press.