Tom Whalen

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“Baudelaire wrote that ‘the overriding desire of most children is to get at and see the soul of their toys.’ Rilke claimed that when children realize that their dolls are inanimate, that their toys have no souls at all, they grow disgusted with their dolls. Enter Tom Whalen….these beautifully crafted prose poems are as animated and frightening as voodoo dolls—think the American Girl collection in the hands of Cindy Sherman. Dolls delighted and scared me beyond belief.”

Denise Duhamel, author of Queen for a Day

“As a boy, I did horrible things to my sister’s dolls. But nothing so cruel as to bring them to life; to make them suffer, yearn, procreate, seek, secrete, and contemplate mortality. Tom Whalen is a virtuoso of personification (the sacred purview of the prose poet) and a sadist of playthings. Dolls is an entrancing and playfully disquieting collection.”

Peter Conners, author of Emily Ate the Wind

“If you like your dolls haunted and licentious, you’ve come to the right place. Tom Whalen’s preternatural creations remind me of Hans Bellmer’s fetish dolls, as possessed by the Bride of Chucky….Don’t dare to read these voodoo poems on a rainy night in a creaky old Victorian house. And if you try, remember that I warned you.”

Richard Peabody, co-editor of Mondo Barbie

“Tom Whalen’s book is malign and unsettling and darkly outré—he re-Wittgensteins the world that used to be the case through the impassive, but vigilant, eyes of his dolls, and returns it to us strikingly changed.”

Sven Birkerts, editor of AGNI at Boston University

Dolls was the winning manuscript in the 2006 Caketrain Chapbook Competition, as judged by Denise Duhamel.

About the Author

Tom Whalen’s books include An Exchange of Letters, Roithamer’s Universe, Elongated Figures and Winter Coat. He lives in Stuttgart, Germany.


Cover image © 2007 Matthew Feyld. Used by permission. Another Chicago Magazine: “From the Life of the Doll”; Gargoyle: “Incompatibility,” “In an Antique Shop Window”; Ghoti Magazine: “Dolls Dolls Dolls,” “The Doll’s Alienation,” “Once a Doll Was Exploring Her Intestines”; Mississippi Review: “A True Story,” “All This,” “Woman and Dolls”; Poetic Inhalation: “The Lover of Dolls”; Sentence: “The Tenacity of Dolls,” “Belief,” “The Test,” “Instructions on How to Wind a Doll,” “Romanticism and Dolls,” “On Love and Dolls,” “Dolls and Kant,” “The Doll’s Suicide,” “The Last Word on Dolls”; The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder (Paul Rosheim, Ed.; Obscure Publications, 2004): “All This,” “The Doll Performs Surgery,” “The Doll Writes to Her Mother,” “Obsession,” “The Origin of Dolls,” “Four Visitations.” Text © 2007 Tom Whalen.