The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Carol Guess’ “F IN”


Selection from Carol Guess’ “F IN”


F IN began as a ghost story, a mystery, my attempt to subvert the conventions of those forms. I wanted to tell the story of the (ubiquitous) dead girl from the perspective of a curious girl who makes up the murder, author instead of observer. I wanted to give my heroine agency and appetite. Instead I spent several years writing a manuscript I wasn’t happy with—a novella titled Willful Machine—only to pull it a few weeks before publication.

Rather than publish a book I wished I hadn’t written, I canceled my contract and sat down to revise. At first I tried to make the manuscript longer. Then I made it shorter. Finally I blanked it out: black font to white, invisible screen. After erasing the entire manuscript I allowed a few words back in. Hey you, come in. But you, stay out. I got to be a bouncer at the club I’d constructed.

F IN is an erasure of Willful Machine. I like it better than the original manuscript. I did have moments of wanting to leave the manuscript blank, words hidden in white font. Compression is vital to my aesthetic; when I write something I often just want to erase it. If I were a choreographer I’d be obsessed with stillness, like the moment in Balanchine’s Serenade where the dancers stand motionless, vibrating with patience, before suddenly snapping their feet into first.

city of alleyways            disappearing mountains



roads        rockslides              ghosts                                 serial killers

guard dogs    Minutemen              meth labs

                                                  city of

clear cut

identical floor plans



No one drowns


I don’t want to marry


This selection is from Carol Guess’ erasure poetry book F IN, available from Noctuary Press. Purchase your copy here!

Carol Guess is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, including Darling EndangeredDoll Studies: Forensics, and Tinderbox Lawn. Forthcoming books include How To Feel Confident With Your Special Talents (co-written with Daniela Olszewska), Instructions For Staging (co-written with Kristina Marie Darling), and With Animal (co-written with Kelly Magee). She is Professor of English at Western Washington University. Follow her here:

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.


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