[To] the Last [Be] Human
[To] The Last [Be] Human collects four extraordinary poetry books—Sea Change, Place, Fast, and Runaway—by Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham. From the introduction by Robert Macfarlane: The earliest of the poems in this tetralogy were written at 373 parts per million of atmospheric CO2, and the most recent at 414 parts per million; that is to say, in the old calendar, 2002 and 2020 respectively. The body of work gathered here stands as an extraordinary lyric record of those eighteen calamitous years: a glittering, teeming Anthropocene journal, written from within the New Climatic Regime (as Bruno Latour names the present), rife with hope and raw with loss, lush and sparse, hard to parse and hugely powerful to experience … Graham’s poems are turned to face our planet’s deep-time future, and their shadows are cast by the long light of the will-have-been. But they are made of more durable materials than granite and concrete, they are very far from passive, and their tasks are of record as well as warning: to preserve what it has felt like to be a human in these accelerated years when ‘the future / takes shape / too quickly,’ when we are entering ‘a time / beyond belief.’ They know, these poems, and what they tell is precise to their form…. Sometimes they are made of ragged, hurting, hurtling, and body-fleeing language; other times they celebrate the sheer, shocking, heart-stopping gift of the given world, seeing light, tree, sea, skin, and star as a ‘whirling robe humming with firstness,’ there to ‘greet you if you eye-up.’ I know not to mistake the pleasures of this poetry for presentist consolation; the situation has moved far beyond that: ‘Wind would be nice but / it’s only us shaking.’ … To read these four twenty-first-century books together in a single volume is to experience vastly complex patterns forming and reforming in mind, eye, and ear. These poems sing within themselves, between one another, and across collections, and the song that joins them all is uttered simply in the first lines of the last poem of the last book: The earth said remember me. The earth said don’t let go, said it one day when I was accidentally listening…
Copper Canyon Press
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