My review of Jeannine Hall Gailey’s haunting new poetry collection, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, is up at The Rumpus:
Jeannine Hall Gailey’s fourth poetry collection, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, reanimates the haunting world of 1970s Oak Ridge Valley, Tennessee, where residents lived in the shadow of both the Smoky Mountains and a government nuclear research facility once known as “America’s Secret City.” In an author’s note, Gailey describes her childhood as the daughter of a robotics professor who consulted at the classified Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) and introduces the fictional Robot Scientist’s Daughter of her collection, who she calls “fantastic” but admits shares many of her traits. The poems that make up this collection move in a controlled way between fact and fiction, autobiography and fantasy, giving readers glimpses into the secret world surrounding ORNL in which Gailey grew up, at the same time as they tell the story of a fictional Robot Scientist’s Daughter who was transformed by that world into something other, something monstrous.
I first encountered Jeannine Hall Gailey‘s work in The Los Angeles Review and Phantom Drift, and since then I’ve read all three of her books. If you haven’t read them, you’re missing out! In Becoming the Villainess, her first collection, Gailey explores the origins, behavior, and fates of the characters of our collective imagination who help to define what it means to be female: from Greek goddesses to wicked queens, television spy girls to video game and comic book heroines. Her next two books are just as inventive. She Returns to the Floating World explores Japanese folklore and pop culture, building a beautiful and strange, eerie poetic world in which “wasps and swallows/build nests from radioactive mud” and we might meet the fox wife, the crane wife, or a “dragon in the garden.” Unexplained Fevers, her third book, contains alternate versions of European fairy tales in which, for instance, Rapunzel returns, alone, to the tower to “run her fingers up and down the cold stone wall” and Snow White complains that “all these huntsman are the same… promising candy and nosegays, planning to cut out your heart.” Each one of these books is a pleasure to read; no matter the subject matter, Gailey surprises. I’m honored that she took the time to read Wolf Skin and excited to share what she had to say:
In these poems, at the nexus of science and mythology, Mary McMyne delicately dissects wolf, butterfly and crocus with the same careful intensity. Wolf Skin entrances even as it invites us into a world of princes-turned-hedgehog, mothers who disappear, and characters skeptical of their stories. One poem begs, “Huntsman, leave us, like stones in the wolf’s belly, without memory…” but this is a collection you will return to and remember.
– Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers