Claire Bateman’s Locals is a narrative atlas of prose poems as intimate as they are unpredictable, each a keyhole glimpse into the life of a different realm where our normal logic doesn’t apply. Are we beholding magic? No, but through observing these strangers, we’re confronted by the extraordinary paradoxes within our own hearts.
Claire Bateman has published eight books of poetry: The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan, 1991), Friction (Eighth Mountain, 1998), At the Funeral of the Ether (Ninety-Six Press, 1998), Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003, and Leap (New Issues, 2005), Coronology (a chapbook, single long poem, Serving House Books, 2009), Coronology (and other poems) (Etruscan Press, 2010), and Locals (Serving House Books, 2012). She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a Surdna Fellowship. Claire has taught at Clemson University and Chattanooga State University, and at summer writing conferences such as Bread Loaf and Mount Holyoke.
When Shakespeare wrote about the poet’s calling to give form to what “imagination bodies forth,” to “local habitation”s, surely he was foreseeing the arrival of Claire Bateman’s Locals. And if he was not as prescient as he now seems, then Claire Bateman has gloriously manifested his description of the poet’s art in such a fabulous form that the Bard would be pleased.
Claire Bateman isn’t just a terrific writer. Claire Bateman is a cosmos unto herself, one that’s interlaced with our own, but clearly not our own. Oh, we have our representation here in the Bateman Cosmos—our joys and woes and fears and winged hopes are all on display. But doesn’t the architecture smack of Escher? Don’t the governing laws of the land evoke Borges? Didn’t Russell Edson once serve as Exalted Poobah? There’s something … what is it? Freudian? Shamanic? Cubist? … in the water. Enter the realm of the Bateman Cosmos, and you’ll return to our own as a different person; or, even more intriguingly, you’ll return as yourself, only more so.
When you find yourself in the realms described by Claire Bateman’s Locals, you’ll “probably spend your first few days trying to identify what it is about their culture that makes you uneasy.” Is it the presence of licensed Misinterpreters and Coincidence Consultants? Is it that a reader’s gaze absorbs the letters and illustrations in books? Is it that the departed are interred face down and women give birth in cemeteries, and children remain unnamed until their first attempt at deception? Whatever it is, don’t be surprised if after your stay in Bateman’s realms your uneasiness persists, carrying over into this realm, the one you thought you could return to.
—H. L. Hix