Monday, November 23, 2020

extinction notes

It feels a strange moment to be talking about extinction poems, and yet, weirdly appropriate, given current events and the fact that several snippets of my own extinction poems have been finding their way into journals in the past couple of months.   Last summer and into fall, I was visiting the Field Museum and writing notes for poems that eventually became a project called extinction event, a project that had it's roots in a desire to write about dinosaurs, but wound up also being about birds and dioramas and climate change and  how we as artists (or anthropologists, or archaeologists, or insert other reader of the past) work to capture things that seem permanent but are ultimately not so much at all.

It felt like I had to make it newer, different than my apocalypse poems of yore, which were very much about society and it's breaking down in order to make a larger, big picture, set of concerns here. As I wondered through the evolution exhibit, I was starting to freak out, even long before covid was a gleam in the eye of a tiny bat in China, every time I saw one of the plaques "Mass Extinction #X" Not that I'm convinced this is the end entirely, but it does make it seem like it could be likely one day--a more deadly fast spreading virus, the sort of political dysfunction that clogs up responses and doubts science.

There are a number of theories about the dinosaurs and their demise--the meteor being the favorite among the scientists.   Some of my research indicated that birds, or tiny flying dinosaurs survived and evolved into birds because it was easier to live off the ground than on it for a while. I was also amazed by strange evolutionary paths that place birds closer to dinosaurs than reptiles as we know them today. 

The premise for the project began as an invitation to an event no one wants to go to. Truthfully, I was also thinking of that gala scene in The Relic, which is a movie I can't help but think about everytime I set foot in the Field. About the shelves and drawers of specimens behind the public exhibits and nestled deep in the basement.  Also about the art of creating dioramas--how so much of documentation depends on the artists eye, not just the scientist or historian. 

What resulted is, of course, kind of bleak. (obviously) but it's a solid little batch of poems (and one that fits perfectly in my animal, vegetable, monster manuscript.).  It also led to  a great reading last October --my last before there were no public gatherings--amongst the bird specimens (fitting given the title of my second book). I intend to eventually offer a slimmed down version as a zine with some of the photographs I took during the project while I was writing after the new year, but you can read some selections now in the following places


The Account

River Mouth Review


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