This isn’t the domestic sphere you know, the one you’re told about. This is a deconstruction, a dismantling, a tearing apart. This is a doing away with expectations – a refusal of the woman’s “role.”
In The Filaments of Heather, author Heather Goodrich’s chapbook from Sad Spell Press, we find a woman ridding herself of the “angel in the house,” sweeping the floor full of “toast crumbs and flour and egg shells and onion coats” that stubbornly resurface just as quickly as they’re swept away. This is a woman who feels swallowed by gendered assumptions, by the house that presents a continuous mess for her alone to clean. The sweeping is not conforming or bending to patriarchal ideals.
It’s a new beginning – a claiming of power.
Mother would ask me to stop. Would tell me I’m being
dramatic. Would say this is embarrassing, impolite and
not something ladies do.
But Mother: this is Evolution.
Goodrich, in an interview with Gesture Literary Journal (for which Goodrich is an editor, as interviewer Brenna Lee discloses), explains that we must distance ourselves from harmful narratives in literature. Those that include the house as a symbol of the female body – a prison which keeps the woman “in her place: trapped, kept, owned.”
Here I must include a fairly sizeable quote from Goodrich’s interview, because it reveals so much about where the author was coming from in her writing of Filaments:
“In this possession, female authors have explored the house/female body as haunted, dilapidated or living creatures,” Goodrich says. “These transgressive metaphors may have worked for that time, but they no longer work now. The angel and the monster female tropes are stifling female representation in narratives. Kill the angel, kill the monster.”
And so she does. In the beginning of the collection, the character, Heather, feels the house swallow her; she’s consumed by it. As the story progresses, her dress slowly rips and unravels, and we see internalized misogyny/body shaming at work:
This dress shows too
much body. I shouldn’t be wearing it. It’d be better if I
had put on a bra. And yet it doesn’t matter. Nobody is
This moment of refusal to feel shame or cover up (engage in “politeness”) is just one step in the character gradually, but surely, killing the angel. This is the author killing the trope that no longer works, sweeping her away and offering something more multidimensional, raw, and real.
Goodrich gives us a woman character who is not satisfied in this mold that’s been created for her – she doesn’t have the capacity to speak, she struggles to get words out, she keeps sweeping. But in the end, she’s shed her clothes (her uniform), her voice emerges, and she’s “murdered the secret keeper in me.”
There are no titles to the individual poems in this collection – it begs to be read in one gulp, as intensely as Heather sweeps. Goodrich is highly descriptive in her work and at times likes to play with language, evidenced by her sandwiching words together (“The red incaseofemergency shovel”) and use of homonyms (carotid artery traded for “corroded artery”). All of these minute details make for an engaging, often surprising read which brings you swiftly into the frantic mind and world of its main character.
Too often women are confronted with the words “hysterical” and “crazy.” Too often these labels bleed into literature, which is why it’s great that we have authors like Goodrich who, through their work, break down tired tropes and set them ablaze. Authors who unapologetically kill the angels and the monsters.
(Sad Spell Press, Poetry, Paperback, Nov. 2015)
You can keep up with Heather Goodrich’s work at @h_goodrich.
LESLEY LEROUX is a writer, editor and artist from Canada’s capital (originally the little island of Newfoundland). She graduated with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Her fiction, nonfiction and photography have been published both in print and online, and she has occasionally dabbled in radio and television. She is a feminist, bibliophile and yogi who can be found tweeting about any of the above @LesleyLeRoux.