Monday, May 10, 2021

extinction event


A couple years back, I was invited by to the Field Museum for a reading.  My task was to write poems about the museum's collections and then share them.   I would be granted access to everything, even behind-the-exhibit spaces, though I mostly spent my time that summer in the Hall of Birds.  I initially wanted to avoid the avians, mostly since they make me self-conscious as a subject (as someone would be with a book actually titled IN THE BIRD MUSEUM.) I wanted to write about dinosaurs initially, and as I rounded my way through the evolution exhibit, the world's eras were marked in between by large placards indictaing "EXTINCTION EVENT. No. ____" It seemed ominous that one day, like the dinosausrs, like the other extinct creatures of yore. we also might be extinct eventually (this was pre-covid and even then things seemed bleak for humanity.)

There was also the evolutionary train of dinosaurs to birds.  their infamous Sue skeleton referred to as "Murder Bird" which had me in giggles for days. I've also always been interested in the Field's dioramas and their exhibit cases, which are the epitome of early-mid 20th century design porn for me.  So what to do with all of this--how to digest it into poems.  The Field Museum is also something that seems luxe to me...filled with museum-goers by day and gala balls at night (I am forever indebted to Relic for this impression.)  The idea of calling the series "extinction event" came to me, the sort of party that no one wants to be invited to.

I've written about the apocalypse before, obviously, though these poems have a more ecological version of the end than the ones in LITTLE APOCALYPSE.  There is a certain feeling of excess to them, of humans grown fat and careless. And of course, there were birds, and ultimately that was where, out of many corners of the museum, where I chose to give my reading. Birds as descendents of dinosaurs., which maybe is less bleak--the ability of creatures to evolve into entirely new things over time.  Also, how museums capture a moment but never completely accurately. How we reconstruct the past by clues and theories and an attempt (like the Dodo I mentioned a few posts back) to capture what is already gone.  What role museums play.  What role art plays (this is why these poems are central to my ANIMAL,  VEGETABLE, MONSTER manuscript.)

During my museum visits, I also took a number of exhibit photos, so I though these might complement the text pieces. The lights are dim in many exhibits, so these were the better of many.  I've mentioned before how a trip to the Field my freshman year of high school was what decided me on living my life in Chicago, so it seems fitting.  It is still one of my fave places in the city, so this is a little love note of sorts.



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