Biogeography

by Sandra Meek

$16.95

“[S]o often does Meek get it right that her poems are at once lush and precise, expansive enough to incorporate complex scientific concepts and yet specific when they need to be (‘spidering / to hairline fractures frozen across an eggshell’). In fact, it is when she balances metaphor and pure image that the writing is strongest…. This is not a pastoral book; the reader will find no idealized memories or set pieces here. Rather, the poems unearth and expose the primordial link between humans and nature, as well as examine the speaker’s own fraught understanding of her place in the natural world.”
—Rachel Abramowitz, Colorado Review

Format: paperback

ISBN: 978-1-932195-70-5 Categories: ,

Winner of the Dorset Prize

Winner of the coveted Dorset prize, this two-time Georgia Author of the Year gives us user’s guide to the animal and mineral world, taking us on a poetic odyssey from the American West to the rainforests of Suriname, with many startling destinations (of spirit and location) along the way. These are powerful, life-changing poems offering new ways to connect with the natural universe, and successive epiphanies — the bridges that link bio and geography.

As we have devastated the land, so also we have devastated each other. In these poems, the eroding of a love affair is seen through “a crumbling sandstone wing/studded with iron-stained crystals/beneath the city”; the hubris of a still-at-large former dictator and the grief of a victim’s sister intertwine in the startling red blooms of flambouyants shadowing a bullet-pocked wall. What abides is transience, that of “spiderweb baskets/glistening in grass, early morning,” and of a sky “a patina/of volcanic ash.”

These poems yield that most generative of human possibilities: the chance and choice to begin again, to rediscover a “flamboyant faith,” a lost “nomenclature of wonder” that might just save us.

 

Chronographia

Begin at mile zero: a satellite dish

starless and webbed, great black wheel

shipwrecked to eavesdropping; a blue trailer,

aluminum skin half bricked, the man

inside tamping the trowel higher, packing in

that flamboyant faith in weather

which was youth, and winter’s calm, the forest floor

littered with possibility, pine needles knit

like wishbones’ twinned arms.

Break one: luck’s what remains

most whole, a matchstick’s matted head

before the strike, before wind’s godlike finger

crooked up spring, before the trash fire

leaped to the woods, lapping up trees

as if all would be made visible

in our end. Before mushrooms, small

gray ears, bloomed in the ash, something to gather

before night’s lit with the static

of remote fires and the one

unblinking star pacing the sky

catching our voices, casting them down.

Additional information

Weight .4 lbs
Dimensions 6 x .5 x 9 in

sandra meekTwice Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry, and a 5-time Pushcart nominee, Sandra Meek is a native of El Paso, TX. She was raised in Ft Collins, CO, and received her BA and MFA from Colorado State University, and her PhD from the University of Denver.

For two years she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana. In 2003, she received the Peace Corps Writers Award in Poetry for her first book Nomadic Foundations. Her second book Burn appeared in 2005.

Widely published in literary journals, Sandra Meek is currently a professor at Berry College in Mt. Berry, GA.

“[S]o often does Meek get it right that her poems are at once lush and precise, expansive enough to incorporate complex scientific concepts and yet specific when they need to be (‘spidering / to hairline fractures frozen across an eggshell’). In fact, it is when she balances metaphor and pure image that the writing is strongest…. This is not a pastoral book; the reader will find no idealized memories or set pieces here. Rather, the poems unearth and expose the primordial link between humans and nature, as well as examine the speaker’s own fraught understanding of her place in the natural world.”
Rachel Abramowitz, Colorado Review

“Meek assures her readers ‘the story of beginnings is always / God as a ray of light’ and that the flight of crows is ‘a black thread sewn / to its own unravelling’ (‘Departing Flight’). What she delivers is a balance in language that is all but incandescent. Biogeography is an extraordinary achievement. These poems are weighted with love of world and word, full of incipient loss that haunts even when the images fade.”
Phebe Davidson,  Asheville Poetry Review

“Meek’s third poetry collection asks a lot of its readers: concentration, patience, and a willingness to go to the dictionary. In return she gives us an intelligence worth fathoming. ‘[T]he body’s adrift / in when, saturated by since,’ she writes. How does she know this, or that the heart has fourteen lines? We recognize the rightness of her poetry as soon as we grasp it. This beautiful and intricate book furthermore obliges us to face the reality of injustice and pain, for while Meek’s lines seem to float on the page, they are as powerful as fists.”
Kelly Cherry, from a review on On The Seawall. )

Read another review of Biogeography at the website of Peace Corps Worldwide/Peace Corps Writer..

And here is a lengthy, carefully considered review of Biogeography by Jazzy Danziger in Meridian magazine:

“In ‘Chronographia’ the poet writes, ‘the forest floor / littered with possibility, pine needles knit / like wishbones’ twinned arms. / Break one: luck’s what remains / most whole.’ A cross section of these packed lines might resemble layers of sediment: the conflicting emotions of these revelations are stacked upon each other, not so that we read pleasure on one line and pain on the next, but pleasure and pain together. These moments of tension are so fragile, so based in that beautiful and subtle doubleness of words, that they risk invisibility. How easily we might miss the dark undercurrent and blame of the phrase ‘littered with possibility,’ but Meek takes the risk. Eventually these tricks of language build to form a thunderous, collective power. The result is a book so deeply textured that it is nearly felt on the skin.”
Jazzy Danziger, Meridian #23 (June, 2009)

“Biogeography speaks to the transience of things we hope will always be with us, including ourselves. Meek touches the awful disappearance of life and its vital howling against absence. This is a remarkably tender and beautifully wise book…”
Afaa Michael Weaver

“By the map of a turtle’s neck, the staircase of a voice, the music of a small dog’s nails, Sandra Meek reads the world anew, reminding us of its endlessly dynamic and divine substance. The immersion of self, the selfhood of all living things, into the history of landscape is the creative act that Meek performs here, an act often accompanied by the hard cold fact of human atrocity. “Listen: do you hear the teeth/approaching, do you trust the light, how it eats equally into/shadow and green? Have you noticed? The body without air goes blue/letting in the sky.” (“Courantijn River”) That these poems assume metaphor rather than fret to develop it gives them a deeply evolved quality—Meek achieves in two lines what a poem of old might need thirty for, and she does so with an effortlessness that smacks of magic.”
Larissa Szporluk