In a love letter to two ancestors, Caroline M. Mar reckons with the shapes our bodies take in water and the shapes our bodies take in memory. By the icy waters where drowned Chinese railroad workers lay to rest, Dream of the Lake questions how our family stories slip away from us with each passing generation. Will our memories be preserved, or will we become characters in our children’s children’s retelling of history? These deeply resonant poems are songs of survival, navigating inheritance, identity, and language as they recover voices lost to time and lost to the lake.
“Rationality and dream, beauty and terror, a sense of location and dislocation in time, in place and in identity: these things co-exist so very alluringly in Caroline M. Mar’s Dream of the Lake. Mar is at once a highly lyric poet, with the titular lake as both metaphor and as setting, and a poet of witness, to (among other things) the history of Chinese immigrants and their violent exploitation in America. When she writes ‘Sometimes a person isn’t a person at all, but a weight/ to be freighted onto someone else’s shoulder,’ she is writing about a brutal crime against Chinese railway workers, but she is also attempting a vision of relationship: that we might harm our fellow humans, or we might take them—and give ourselves—as burden, and in doing so give help.” —Daisy Fried
“Poetry’s old work as redress gains new expression in Caroline M. Mar’s Dream of the Lake. Looking into the ways that the self is haunted by ancestry, and the ways that place is haunted by the human, Mar enacts a scrutiny irradiated by longing. Early in this bracing chapbook, Mar presents this catalog—’chains, bodies of water, ghosts.’ And, with formal artfulness, the poems bring to light the presences in those words, giving imagery to what had been in the shadows, giving story to what had been forgotten or destroyed. Poised among landscape, history, lyric, and testimony, Dream of the Lake is a work of harsh, beautiful reckoning.” —Rick Barot
“‘Where are you from / people ask me,’ the speaker of Caroline M. Mar’s anticipated chapbook, Dream of the Lake, muses in ‘水客,’ ‘ask people who look / like me.’ Mar’s collection, among many things, richly interrogates heritage, inheritance, history—personal and communal—lest her speaker remain ‘a daughter unmoored.’ Where else to look but to Lake Tahoe, to the water, for answers—which shifts, reflects, threatens to overwhelm, glistens, and fills us, very much like a history—the water ‘both clear and unknowable’? Mar plumbs the depths of what ‘the cold awakens,’ of ancestry, and her carefully rendered pastoral landscape, for ‘something to carry / into the next world,’ ‘certainty that my life has meaning’ when held up against a difficult past. Mar peers into the water to discover—to construct—some wavering self staring back. Wade into the water, dear reader—get this book!” —Nathan McClain