After-Cave is the narration of “an adolescent female who may or may not be human,” an odyssey feral, feminist, and ecopoetical. More pressing than hunger for this speaker is the need to know what “cruelty” means and how one might live in its absence. In this way,After-Cave is a book about the impossible and how to make it hospitable, and thereby prepare oneself to meet one’s friends: human, animal, the always alive and the already dead. Using language that moves over the speaker like weather systems and migratory birds, troubling notions of linear time and traversing the spaces of human-made and “natural” disaster, Detorie in this first book introduces us to the distinction between a state of being and an act of being.
“Michelle Detorie betrays the false presumptions of our times to vivify and reinhabit the very spaces they have denied and marred. However ‘marred’ is language already discarded here. Without old-fashioned judgment, she sets us inside her testimony, which is a scored preamble, an alchemical cartography, girl-spirited and dense with data, all-atune. The book’s dystopian ferocity and knowledge make its bearings even as it trembles with a deep and feral hope. Hers is the tenderest, the most specific report.” —Elizabeth Treadwell .
“Like Helen Adam before her, Detorie sings this afterlife-life, often via attention to noise, meaning that ‘voice’ here picks up some unnatural instruments: ‘Tumbleweeds or / teeth? [ . . . ] Fur / for a mouth.’ I make my way through After-Cave as I’d enter a woods where ‘the trees have decided to grow underground’—certain that finding my feet will involve a death to one nature or another. In this kind of apocalypse, it’s the ideology of ‘the natural’ that’s haunting the house—not any actual fact of organisms. Or (if you like ghosts) maybe it’s the natural’s propensity for systematic violence that leaves us with such fiery spectral lives.” —C.J. Martin .
“Michelle Detorie writes through the animal to reach another place; there, we encounter ‘reluctance,’ ‘kindness,’ trailing ‘ribbons.’ I was very moved by the link Detorie makes between feral life and the ecology of shelter. As she writes: ‘Digging underground, I disrupted homes that did not belong to me but wound deep and tethered together.’ How this profound non-belonging is in relation, always, to the sensation of touch when it comes; touch that in After-Cave precipitates encounter, like the stages of soft palate growth and experiment that precede language: ‘Your hand like a little lock reached through—.’ What a tender and complicated book for someone to write. A book that is ‘silky, frayed, gleaming: a continuance.’ A book that hurts a little bit to read. A book saturated in the kind of longing a girl might typically not admit; a desire, in other words, that starts to change the outline of the body: ‘my glass jaw bobbing.’ The intensity also lies in the way Detorie takes us close to what is not us and what will change us to be with in another way, across the species frame: ‘I thought of taking off my clothes and sleeping with the wolf.’ Communal, imaginal, soft—the book goes on and takes us further in, until we reach the ‘meadows still blue with the asphalt glitter that rained down.’ And get to go. And get to lie down.”