The final chapbook from our 2022/2023 Open Reading Period is The Adorable Knife by Jessica Purdy. The poems in this collection revel in a kind of ekphrasis, exploring miniature crime scenes. In fact, each of the poems (except for the opening sestina) is based on a diorama created by Frances Glessner Lee, a forensic scientist. Lee’s 20 dollhouse-scale dioramas—collected in Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death—were used to train homicide investigators. Purdy’s poems animate the scenes, adding personality and hints of narrative.
I was attracted to the way the stories of the dioramas unfold. Sometimes from Lee’s perspective, sometimes an investigator, and sometimes the perpetrator or victim. (Sometimes from the “outside” and sometimes from the “inside.”) The miniature scenes come to life in vivid detail—in language as painstakingly precise as Lee’s creations.
From “Living Room”:
“Your stint in jail didn’t leave a mark.
You love to confess if only I had married D instead,
bring me roses and I am consoled.
I still pet your chin hairs
chain smoke Marlboro Lights
go barefoot in my swirly skirts.
I hope your engine dies mid-air.
My blackened eye fades to yellow
like the sunset from your pilot’s chair
and the stair scrubbed of blood
blooms again with spatter.”
The Adorable Knife is now available on the Titles page.