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Welcome to the Anthropocene

Anthropocene

About this book

Available from the University of Alberta Press

ISBN: 978-1-77212-368-5

This 11th collection from Alice Major continues her long engagement with science and mathematics, which (like poetry) are ways we try to find meaning in the universe. The Anthropocene is a term that has been picking up velocity in scientific circles over recent decades, as we try to come to terms with how (and how much) human activity is shaping the planet.

The section that gives the book its name is a long poem in the satiric spirit of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man. It draws on biology, evolutionary science, current events and ultimately cosmology to ask the down-to-earth question: where do humans belong “…in a wholeness where / everything is common and everything is rare”?

Expanding on this dilemma, other sections of the book explore how we get along in this complicated period when it can hard to figure out how to do much about the big stuff in our small way, when we have to make a living, when people get consigned to the margins, when other animals have to live with us – and when poets have to work with the same brains as every other human to make their kinds of meaning.  The poems in “Long division” turn personal, as the poet tries to use mathematical patterns to make sense of questions about issues like congenital illness and gender that have touched her own life.

Welcome to the Anthropocene is a witty, varied, sparky response offered at one of humanity’s most complicated turning points.

Now, welcome to the Anthropocene

you battered, tilting globe. Still you gleam,

a blue pearl on the necklace of the planets.

This home. Clouds, oceans, life forms span it

from pole to pole, within a peel of air

as thin as lace lapped round an apple. Fair

and fragile bounded sphere, yet strangely tough—

this world that life could never love enough….

Sample a poem

Text: Excerpt from Welcome to the Anthropocene

Text: Circadian Arcadias

Audio: Privacy Acts

Radio interview with Terra Informa

Reviews

Because the universe is big and all but incomprehensible, the average Jills and Joes don’t dare ask too many existential questions. It is left to poets to face the truth in those places the rest of us fear to tread. The author of eleven books of poetry and essays, Edmonton’s first poet laureate, and a woman comfortable in the realms of math, science, and cosmology, Alice Major is uniquely qualified to guide humanity through perilous ecological times. Thank you, Alice.

— Matt Sutherland, Forward Review, (January/February 2018)

Alice Major begins Welcome to the Anthropocene by considering all the ways humans have meddled with the environment … before acknowledging a discomfiting paradox: the greater the destruction, the more convinced we become of our species’ significance in the face of time and space too vast to comprehend. The traditional and experimental forms which appear throughout the book reinforce Major’s argument … She excels at depicting situations when humans are themselves little more than kind animals, unusually intelligent but never quite intelligent enough, and often confounded by their own place in the ecosphere. Poems like “Old Anna” and “The Afternoon Before the Clocks Turn Back” are standout examples.

— Patrick O’Reilly, Maisonneuve

Poets work like naturalists or scientists. What they do is based on what has gone before. … The poet has had fun writing these poems, which is a good sign for the reader. They poems are serious but the reader can expect to have fun reading them.

— Murray Citron, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol 131, No 4

This is poetry with a brain as well as a heart – it not only makes us feel but also succeeds in making us think.

— Roger Caldwell, London Grip

 

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