Facing the Mirror: An Essay available July 2021.
Facing the Mirror: An Essay is a prose poem concerning the mirror’s many histories—philosophical, spiritual, scientific, mythological—alongside my fraught relationship with it as someone who struggles with the mental disorder dermatillomania, a compulsive picking at one’s own skin.
Mirrors often serve as a trigger for sufferers of dermatillomania and body dysmorphia, but anyone who has struggled with the disconnect between their outward appearance and their inner self knows how fragmentary and confrontational looking in a mirror can be. This chapbook explores this contested place where the face and the mirror meet.
Praise for Facing the Mirror: An Essay
The fact of the face is that it is a made-thing, so we learn from Katherine Indermaur’s essay, filled equally with light and delight, and a candor that quietly opens us to the complexity mirrors present us with: this unthinkable, thinking gap between I & I, where the same is not ever exactly the same. I have read philosophies in which another face begins our own ethical life. I’ve read psychologies in which seeing our own face begins the ego’s work. What is new to me is this small book, in which the face facing itself works towards an epistemology. This work of knowing ranges from solipsism to prophecy, fairy tale to etymology, matter to God. Formally inventive, feelingly intelligent, Facing the Mirror helps us to do a thing that feels more and more impossible: helps us not only see ourselves more honestly, but teaches us to more clearly see our own seeing.” —Dan Beachy-Quick, author most recently of Arrows (Tupelo Press)
“If I could only see more clearly my own seeing.” So begins Katherine Indermaur’s stunning Facing the Mirror, a book that looks long, and longingly, at vision itself. In our occularcentric world, mirror and eye, not unlike language, are taken at face value, which is why the poet, interested as she is in depth and complexity, seeks to “unsurface things.” Indermaur’s keen understanding of language as a series of relations (words are “cousins of wonder,” “sisters”) parallels her revelation that “seeing cannot be separated from thinking.” The eye/I of these essay-poems moves like an arrow, gliding over the surface with piercing attention, but also piercing that same surface with intelligence and vulnerability so that the very tender heart of knowing is seen in all its raw and exposed beauty. —Sasha Steensen, author most recently of Everything Awake (Shearsman Books)
Katherine Indermaur considers how mirrors reckon—by reflecting back to us—what was always there, her gaze never wavering from the “inescapable horror, being seen.” In succinct, essay-like prose, these poems are observers to a haunted embroidery, a matrix of empathy and astute recollection. —Diana Marie Delgado, author of Tracing the Horse (BOA Editions)
Published Excerpts from Facing the Mirror: An Essay
Here are some previously published excerpts you can read online if you want a sneak peak at what’s in the chapbook:
Additional excerpts were also published in Ghost Proposal and in Coast|noCoast issue 2.
So… what is a chapbook?
The short answer is that it’s just a short book! For a more detailed answer, check out the blog post I wrote to answer this exact question.
And what is a prose poem?
Prose poetry is poetry but without the line breaks, so it’s written in paragraphs (just like this) rather than in the traditional stanzas and lines you might expect. Poet Molly Peacock once wrote, “Poetry seeks to name; prose seeks to explain.” Prose poetry is the place where these two conventions meet.
For more on prose poetry, I recommend this helpful LitHub article by poets Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, “What Sets Prose Poetry Apart from the Lyric?” It’s an excerpt from their 2020 book, Prose Poetry: An Introduction.