from “The Woman in White”

which will be published in THREE NOVELS
coming in Fall 2011 from Omnidawn

Whence the plot’s precipice folds over, an envelope from which

more secret still,

                                    the ghost falls      Shoved

Likewise, no asylum

Treasure hidden beneath its embroidered counterpane

is a mere self

                                                and foreign, she meant: self



all undone, her

                        (or her)

            white membranous rind slips

burnt away

At once the creature’s pelt embraces itself and all its kind–

                                                            The land’s grace incarcerates, redoubles itself


                        Down the linen burrow
and into the ether

How does the hollow of the land make full its vow

the clouds filled her mouth as she spoke:



Materialized as a frail part of the body glancing backward


Like that from which she pushed herself,

pushed her feral likeness


another death
                                    – the satin open air caught afire

              as the open shift shows the bosom,

just off-balance

                                                Cheapened fabric

by any attempt to recognize


The forlorn neck
turns toward
            and turns toward inkling

                                                Innocent imposture

little animal,
mild pelt it once wore
                                                Diaphanous skeleton she lifts, to ward off the several
                                                blows who

constitute world, gown, and endless downy lawn

Author Statement:

When I was a young child, my father read to me. He started with Sherlock Holmes stories and proceeded through Gogol short stories and then on through the novels of Wilkie Collins. To this day, The Woman in White remains my favorite novel. In the aftermath of my father’s death, I decided to revisit my earliest introduction (via his reading) to literature. I feel deeply attached to Collins’ novels because of the pleasure of that work that I shared with my father. It strongly influenced my own desire to become a writer. At the same time, as I reread Collins, I was struck by the role of the female characters in his novels: agents, with their own desires and worldviews, who were at the same time strangely passive as a result of the constraints on Victorian womanhood. In The Woman in White, the female protagonists are tangled in a series of relationships closely tied to the inheritance of an estate. My exploration in my own poem entitled “The Woman in White,” had to do with how this land created a sense of the pastoral and how that implicated an understanding of the feminine. Somehow, in my mind, this tied me back to my absent father, and a different legacy, that of shared language.

Author Bio:
Elizabeth Robinson is the author of eleven books of poetry (including Three Novels, from which this feature is excerpted. Three Novels is forthcoming from Omnidawn in Fall 2011). Her most recent books are The Orphan & its Relations (Fence Books) and Also Known As (Apogee Press). Robinson was educated at Bard College, Brown University, and the Pacific School of Religion. She has been a winner of the National Poetry Series for Pure Descent and the Fence Modern Poets Prize for Apprehend. The recipient of grants from the Fund for Poetry and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Robinson has also been a MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her work has been anthologized in the Best American Poetry (2002) and American Hybrid, along with many other anthologies. Robinson has taught at the University of San Francisco, the University of Colorado, Boulder, Naropa University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She co-edits EtherDome Chapbooks with Colleen Lookingbill and Instance Press with Beth Anderson and Laura Sims.