Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection by Juliette van der Molen

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Exquisite Corpse poetry anthology review: a death librarian makes his own macabre notes on the deceased.

‘Night time ride in an old blue Chevy, singing Free Fallin’ down a dirt road. Her kiss lingers on his lips. Colored lights flashing in darkness. Hands on the wheel—speak slow. Call me when you get home safe, she said and he laughed. Her voice echoed in his ears trapped with his death breath.’

– Juliette van der Molen, Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection

The marriage of death and beauty in Juliette van der Molen’s chapbook Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection is delicately executed. Formed of 26 catalogued cards of the deceased, this chapbook is a fresh and innovative addition to Moonchild Magazine’s growing list of remarkable texts.

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Juliette van der Molen’s lyrical descriptions of the transitory moments before death offer their own beauty through fleeting glimpses into the hidden lives of everyday people. Perhaps van der Molen’s poetics remind us that we need to find beauty in death, in order to comprehend it and be comfortable with its inevitability.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that Bartholomew Miller, the so-called ‘death librarian’, possesses some largely grotesque qualities. His near-sensual descriptions of a number of catalogued bodies lie on the border between objectively appreciative and marginally warped.

‘Hides behind papered walls, hairline cracked foundation. Curtains heavy dark and drawn muffled cocoon. Scared to go, scared to stay. Doors open and close, whispers shimmy through radiator hiss. Apparition visit, from the corner of her eye—flinch. Tumbled end over end knocked head and knee. Splayed rag doll—draped over stairs—a specter’s deed.’

– Juliette van der Molen, Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection

Upon reaching the end of the chapbook, and in compressing the vast and immense personal histories of those included in the text, I felt as though the author had flicked a switch regarding my perception of death. The chapbook reiterates the fact that life is undoubtedly transient and fragile, and we ought to be aware of the precious nature of our days. Juliette van der Molen’s Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection is a poetic and harsh reminder of life’s inevitable conclusion.

Click here to read the Death Library collection online for free at Moonchild Magazine. You can also follow Juliette van der Molen on Twitter: @j_vandermolen.

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