by Alice Notley
"In a secularized culture that has lost touch with the traditional languages of the 'soul'... Notley possesses and transports her selfhood like a priceless contraband." - Brian Kim Stefans, The Boston Review
Alice Notley's Alma, or The Dead Women, is a cross-genre book—poem/novel, poetry/prose, comedy/tragedy, submitting to no discipline but its own, conceived by the author in a state of personal, national, and planetary grief. In this book, Alma, the true god of our world, is a foul-mouthed middle-aged working-class woman, a junky who injects heroin into the center of her forehead and dreams and suffers our nightmare with us. She has a mother, Alta, the mother of God, and a son, Sonny, the son of God. She has many other manifestations among the Dead Women, a community of living and dead spirits Alma gradually attracts before, but especially after, September 11, 2001. The group of Dead Women (which includes certain men) increases in number, surveying with disbelief and horror the actions of the United States government as it perpetrates one war and prepares for another. Finally, Alma and her associates decide that they must leave the mainstream of America and found a new society, even a new species, in a gully behind the abandoned rec center of a small town in the Mohave Desert. The Dead Women metamorphise, part-time, into burrowing owls, and invent new rites and songs for a tainted but still possible future.