Imagining the Anthropocene Archive
In Milk Black Carbon, Inupiaq poet Joan Naviyuk Kane transports readers to the climatic fault lines along her Alaskan homeland’s mountains, ice, and sea. Through a rigorous, proximate gaze and precise linguistic hybridity, Kane unlocks moments of felt thought in which personal, cultural, and geologic experience converge.
Along the course of a rugged pilgrimage, Carson’s defined formal structure enables the logical leaps that keep the speaker in a constant state of new encounter. As her mind’s constellated meanderings undercut the journey’s unceasing forward motion, “The Anthropology of Water” erodes assumptions of linear progress.
Derrick Austin’s Trouble the Water (BOA Editions, 2016) turns flooded ruins into relics devoted to floods, both physical and emotional. His debut collection of formally-driven, hermetic verse shapes physical and emotional overflows into precise devastation.
In her book Cadaver, Speak, Boruch engages in a corporeal self-study through figure drawing, art history, and medical anatomy. From inside her own “bonehouse,” Boruch builds a poetics of embodiment, suturing her firsthand observation to the cultural paradigms that have marked our language.
Danez Smith’s second book of poems, Don’t Call Us Dead, takes up the project of rehumanizing black lives, reshaping lament into forward-looking prophecy. The collection’s opening epic poem, “summer, somewhere,” acts as a book of re-creation, turning premature mortality into a revived, embodied love drawn from the earth itself.
In the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny cast pillage as a moral imperative. Its rallying cry re-ignited the American founding’s genocide and environmental destruction to fuel westward expansion. Cathy Park Hong’s sonorous triptych Engine Empire reshapes the Western’s tropes into a chilling interrogation of digitally facilitated detachment.
Human society is built on superficial impositions of order: government, religion, science, and language attempt to enervate chaos. But for Jane Mead, a poet entrusted with her family’s California vineyard in the midst of a historic drought, there’s no hiding from earth’s mists and windstorms.
Landscape sculptor Andy Goldsworthy has said, “The field is a beautiful forum for the fight for nourishment.” Jane Wong brings that forum to the page.
Symbolic as my singular action was, it was optimism in practice, opting for the choice to join a collective demonstration of resistance. These days, I’m far more likely to feel that “we” have ruined things than that “we” can affect the world to come.
Lorine Niedecker’s poem “Lake Superior” cracks open the human history of its eponymous source. Its thirteen fragments splice together geologic details, explorers’ diaries, and firsthand observations to trace white settlers’ incursions into “America’s / Northwest.”