Action Books, 2020
Death Industrial Complex is a meditation on the cultural obsession with the bodies of dead women and an occult invocation of the artist Francesca Woodman. Like Woodman’s photographs with their long exposures and blurred lenses, this book is haunted and haunting, hazey yet devastatingly precise. These are poems as possessions, gothic ekphrases, dialogues with the dead, biography and anti-biography, a stunning act of “cryptobeauty.”
Selections from Death Industrial Complex have appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Berkeley Review, Phoebe, Epiphany!, Palimpsest: Yale Graduate Literary Arts Magazine, DREGINALD, Dream Pop Press, Deluge, New Delta Review, Sonora Review, Occulum, Sidereal, Leveler, Berfrois, Nice Cage, Datableed, Reality Hands, Fugue, Tarpaulin Sky, The Journal Petra, Ninth Letter, Bennington Review, Best American Experimental Writing 2020, and Kansas’s Best Emerging Poets 2020.
Does this book expect you to hold its heels as it hovers? Does it want you to see it crawl from a tv set and then lock fingers with its girlish ghost? Is a mirror a weapon? Is ekphrasis a ghost mirror? Is there a stage, can you see it sideways, do you see the veil now? Do you take pleasure in the kind of gazing that turns your eyes into shimmery séance light? Do you want access to the “gate out of this world”? You bet your sweet ass you do, reader. “You can get married to a tthing they say doesn’t even exist.” Did you see that glitch? Did you feel it in your curtain-y skeleton? Can you hear this call to cult from the broken record player, you little glitch baby?
“This is a story about how clothing was invented,” and sometimes this is an ekphrastic act, a companion text to the images and biography of Francesca Woodman, sometimes it’s memoir via possession (but how it defies “the petty/ contours of memoir”!), sometimes it’s poems as organelles, sometimes a study in trachophobia (fear of speed), sometimes a treatise on light and fashion and parents, sometimes an inquiry—deliciously terrifying—into “the extra stuff.” The stuff that impossibly lingers around liminal gates, salt crystals, “the rivulet of oil between/ the living dermis and the dead fil/ aments” of the scalp, light from the corner of a room, “pure gothic deep inside the erotic.”
I absolutely love the world of this book. It’s “something that sounds like bubbles of air bursting on the water’s surface” and that is the only place I ever, truly, want to be. It writes with both hands so that it can touch itself in the middle. It killed mary jane shoes. It made itself the gate and refused to demur because “some lipsticks are better than others/ for writing yyour name on a mirror.”
—Olivia Cronk, author of Louise and Louise and Louise & Skin Horse
Fashioning her Francesca Woodman from gloves and veils, eels and electricities, Candice Wuehle’s Death Industrial Complex is the most exquisite pen pal, a Pretty Pretty Poltergeist, a portrait that evades as it enchants. “Writing with both hands,” Wuehle’s “unsuicide note” is a Josephus Thimister gown of a book, rawing its silks, shedding its skins, letting all that sad/badgirl beauty bleed on, bleed out.
—JoAnna Novak, author of I Must Have You: A Novel & Noirmania