To Fall Fable
CW: Sexual Assault, Alcohol use, Suicide
In a lonely Garden of Eden in which “roses [bite] back” and “Eve cried at first, but that / didn’t count,” Wickenden tells a parable of survivorship and survivor’s guilt, or “all the secrets / you purchased with your tears.” The harrowing yet luminous poems “[teach] you that friend / and rapist can be synonymous” and formally illustrate how “abuse repeats itself like a Greek myth,” culminating in a masterful crown of sonnets. The poetess asks, “how are you still alive?” My answer as a fellow survivor: poetry like Wickenden’s.
—Isabel Rae McKenzie
To use Alice Wickenden’s extended metaphor, the signification of the dual meanings of fable is a rope that forms a knot at the center. At one end of that rope is a moral. At the other end of that rope is a lie. To Fall Fable is a brave navigation of both, and all that lives in between. We know Wickenden is lying when she writes: But there is no meaning to any of this. And we survivors know the devastating truth she intones, the central moral of the book, in the closing, breathtaking sequence of sonnets: abuse repeats itself like a crown of thorns. To Fall Fable is a stunning debut.
To Fall Fable reimagines the story of Adam and Eve, creating a vivid, surprising world where flowers sneer, birds offer themselves up as snot tissues, and ribs tell stories to each other in the dark. Like the Eve she describes, Alice Wickenden is charged with building beauty in a “littered world,” and build it she does, oscillating between witty cynicism and deep, unadulterated feeling, with affecting clarity and a dynamic, impressive range of poetic forms. Haunted by thorny entanglements of sex and grief, friendship and rape, complicity and consent, this chapbook wrestles overtly with how language fails while simultaneously showing us how voices can glimmer in the darkness, form a portal, and deliver us somewhere new.