WINNER OF THE OMNIDAWN OPEN ::: WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MARY JO BANG
This book is a hybrid poem-novel based on the life of Kafka, mixed with the lives of animals and with family history (my mother and her family fled Hungary at the end of WWII while members of my father's family remained in Siberia, stranded in labor camps for decades.)
Our Animal haunts the tragic peripheries of World War II, and in doing so touches upon themes central to Jewish culture and literature after the Shoah: G-d, diaspora, trauma, memory, testimony, history, and survival. Though he died between the wars, it makes sense that Kafka (so close to kavka, the Czech for crow) is Stricker’s companion animal through the landscape of “clotted mud and snow that was wartime,” given his sensibility attuned equally to devastation and transformation, doubt and faith. The brilliance of this book lies in Stricker’s effortless fusion of so many genres— biography, lyric, essay, visual poetry—into a singular idiom while documenting her search for the Soul’s residence after unthinkable disaster. Her ethics is such that the beauty of the writing does not shield us from brutality, instead leading us always “further into the dark conveyance beyond imagination.” – Brian Teare
Meredith Stricker’s chapter-poem is a brilliant mix of lyric, narrative, and epic elements. Sampling, scrambling, over-laying, collaging, and crossing out language from Kafka’s diaries, stories, and aphorisms and Dante’s hell and paradise, Stricker creates a set of meditations in which human, animal, vegetable, and mineral life not only co-exist but converse. What they say in the transition zone the poem creates is spacious and wise, strange but not estranged, and rich in its resonance for our nonhuman moment. – Adelaide Morris
In Our Animal we find ourselves driving at nightfall, radio on, away from Dante’s selva oscura, in the direction of Eden. The poems are the broadcast of every instance and new species passed along the way. Fabulously, among these species, Stricker numbers you and I. – Donald Revell
Our Animal hybridizes novel flaking into poetic forms like a gnat swarm, magnetic filingsor migratory flux. It's a fierce inquiry into Othering, tracking Kafka's life through his deep identification with animals, especially those hunted or outcast. Graphically complex with metamorphic text layers, the chapters shape-shift in relation to crows, dragonflies, a frog; there are deer, swallows, a goldfinch, humans, a hybrid Beast, wolf, Insekt, a small unidentified animal in its burrow. Drawing on family history in Hungary and Siberia the phonemes of exile and homeland, the familiar and displaced, Our Animal entangles usin biography as biology –– bios writing and re-writing wartime, fragments of history and the nature of trans-lation: interlingual, interspecies –– paradisiacal transfiguration that leaves out no being.