The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood, released by Hanging Loose Press in 2019.

I used to drink when I felt perplexed like this, or anything really, just tip my head back and swallow down any awareness in gulps, my Brooklyn apartment alive with frequencies of suffering only I could hear. But now I have to feel it, just tip my head back and swallow my own brain I guess. This is the first problem with being sober, “on the wagon,” but still frontierless, without a new land to pilfer. Alcohol is that pirate land that calls out to me at night, flowers that rats have eaten, dirty polaroids hung from clothespins in pretty girls’ rooms, anger things, shame blushing, the sneakiest man in a long line of sneaky men. But if I don’t stay sober, I won’t even make it as far as the prairie.

It’s okay, though, I’ll just sit here on the toilet totally overcome by various mental revolutions until my husband and son get home to remind me of the outside world. This writing is what I do most of the time, that, teach, eat, read, watch movies, love some people deeply, and waste time of course. What is it that happens between the valiant, virtuous, creative alternative and the decision to eat a million hot wings and watch a cat video?

Even though being “on the wagon” sucks, I’m drawn to the spatial implications of the American frontier and equally full of desire to transgress its borders. In her Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa defines a border as an indeterminate space invented by the lingering emotions of an unnatural frontier. I grew up, like every other writer in my country, aching to pen the next Great American Novel, but I suspect that territory seemed further away to women.


Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She has published two books of poetry, Lunatic Speaks (FutureCycle, 2012) and Making Maxine’s Baby (Hanging Loose Press, 2015) and one book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman (Hanging Loose Press, 2019). Her novel, Ghosts of America, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose in August 2021. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist. She blogs for the Kenyon Review.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.


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