by H.E. Fisher
Free Lines Press
Cover art by Santiago del Conde
About the Collection
Written through a caregiver's lens, Sterile Field explores the nexus of the climate crisis, health care system, and our bodies.
In this collection, H.E. Fisher experiments with a variety of poetry forms as she brings us closer to Earth and to each other. In times when healing and caring are our last hope, Sterile Field is a love letter to our bodies, Earth, and life itself.
Anyone who has had any experience with the medical industrial complex knows how dehumanizing, disorienting, and difficult it is to navigate. In this deeply compassionate collection, H.E. Fisher allows us to experience the struggle of her husband's heart failure and transplant right along with her. We witness, from every angle, the complexities and contradictions of being a patient and a caregiver during late-stage capitalism where our bodies and the earth are struggling to survive. Fisher examines received ideas of sickness and health, and examines the way privilege, systemic racism, and classism cause harm in a myriad of subtle and overt ways. In "Recovery" she writes, "After surgery we learned/ it is the American way/ to live with a permanent wound." Adept at lyric, narrative, and hybrid, and using both found language and medical texts, Fisher has written a book of her husband's heart transplant that also works as a metaphor for our society that is slowly poisoning us and the natural world. It is both a personal narrative and a political call to action. It is an astonishing debut.
—Jennifer Franklin, author of No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018)
H.E. Fisher’s manuscript, Sterile Field, is a breathtaking examination of our environments: nature, marriage, and oneself. Fisher’s ability to capture the individuality and the flow between the environments picks up on the uncanny and sublime in ways that mirror not only the experimental, contemporary poetry heavyweights like Anna Walden and Anne Carson, but also echo the formal prose of gothic greats such as Mary Shelley and Jane Austen. There’s a truth in these poems that can only be expressed as pugnaciously genuine and refreshingly murky. Any reader of Fisher’s work will instantly connect to all the gritty versions of love that exist in their realms.
—Kristine Esser Slentz, author of woman, depose (FlowerSong Press, 2021)
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JANE ALMOST ALWAYS SMILES
by H.E. Fisher
Cover Design: Anna Litofksy
In Jane Almost Always Smiles, H.E. Fisher invites us into the world of a young girl as she tries to survive and navigate sexual abuse and make sense of a school environment that expects and rewards compliance above all else. By the 1950s, first grade students throughout the United States were learning to read through Dick and Jane books, which included three white, middle class children. Fisher borrows expressions and language from the Dick and Jane reading series to frame her poems, adding an eerie quality to the book and leading us to consider the ways in which our demand for a child’s compliance can make us complicit in harming the children we are charged with protecting and educating. In Jane Almost Always Smiles, we yearn to reach through the poems, toward a girl who so desperately needed to be able to say no, as so many of us have needed to be empowered. In Fisher’s words: “I think there is always a boat to carry…In the first grade I learn / ‘no’ is a word to say / on the inside…I think to say ‘no’ / is an ocean.” This book is both boat and ocean: a powerful exploration and reckoning of memory, trauma and survival.
—Joan Kwon Glass, author of NIGHT SWIM (Diode Editions, 2022)
“We are always dressed up,” says H. E. Fisher’s speaker as she in incredible fashion critiques the ideologies put on us as children. Jane Almost Always Smiles is a suite of poems alive with lyric beauty and phenomenal awareness. Fisher’s syntax mimics—or wears—the grammatical simplicity of the Dick and Jane early reader books for children, and in this act untangles the harm of our own indoctrinations: “In the first grade I learn / no is a word to say / on the inside.” A necessary, stunning work.
—C.T. Salazar, author of Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking
Fisher’s Jane Almost Always Smiles masterfully weaves the cadence from the Dick and Jane series into poems that explore collective family memories, societal biases, and childhood trauma. Through the gripping childlike voice, she emphasizes the innocence of a child surrounded by problematic adults who have power over her. Jane Almost Always Smiles is a collection so well-crafted in its narrative and voice that once we read the first page, we cannot stop until the end.
—Liz Marlow, author of They Become Stars