Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland

by Katy Didden


Part miracle, part oracle, in these poems lava speaks “with the focus of a burning glass,” lighting lyric core samples through geo-historical and cultural texts about Iceland. Shifting the ground so “nouns are never still,” the lava reveals how language itself is a record of collisions: poem as matter, sound as forge, form as friction. And what does it mean to be human in the face of such ancient forces, especially as climate change unsettles the earth that anchors us? By the light of the “sphere’s credo,” can we, too, be remade?


Published: October 2022

Add to Cart

Out of stock

ISBN: 978-1-946482-74-7 Categories: , Tag:

“In Katy Didden’s oracular hybrid chorale, Ore Choir, the primordial Lava of Iceland is a geomorphic artist ‘paint[ing] vales’ by ‘eras[ing] the ground,’ proclaiming that ‘Iceland is the only art.’ The ground that lava covers makes it new—aesthetic, abstract, modern—blurring the lines between visual and poetic. As the Lava asks the Fire Priest, ‘Can you see/ this way of making/ as a language?’ To create Ore, Didden chose source texts drawn from the rich archives on historic volcanoes in Iceland, imagining ‘ink flowing’ over the texts as lava flows over land. Paired with Kevin Tseng’s brilliant visuals, Didden’s poems become ‘core samples’—transhuman palimpsests, eerily and resonantly vatic—and the collection as a whole volcanic.”

—Cynthia Hogue, author of In June the Labyrinth

“Lava and lyric merge into ‘a thousand tongues’ in the palimpsestic topography of Katy Didden’s Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland, where the terrain of these poems is ‘more exposure, than erasure.’ Skillfully hybridic in the resplendent tethering of text with image, Didden uses lava as a medium through which to speak in these exquisite extractions. Collaborative, citational, and invitational, Ore Choir summons us to join the conversation around environmental change even as ‘the old fear arises / that the public won’t care.’ Ore Choir, at its core, is an inquiry into the erasure and erosion of our planet, and yet it is steeped in ‘the persistence of tenderness’ as it sings it fiery beauty forward, summoning us to join in the chorus.”

—Simone Muench

“The supreme accomplishment of Didden’s Ore Choir is in her ability to harness all elements—the word, the line, the image, the page itself—to interrogate both the act of formation and presence and the impact of erasure and absence. Didden’s power with language and Kevin Tseng’s supple, intricate illustrations combine to provide the reader with a truly unique and powerful experience.”

—Hasanthika Sirisena

“Layering source text, poetry, and photographic fragments of the Icelandic landscape, the images give testimony to the earth’s predilection for breakage and change. Word and letter islands erupt as patterns over a landscape, only partially revealed. The volatile topography crinkles, heaves, and vanishes under the poems, the images resembling rodent-nibbled pages of an illuminated manuscript.”

—Jenny Grassl, Lit Pub

“Didden’s question-and-answer poems are the result of a double erasure of the same source, first to discover questions, second to locate answers—one is answered by the very same material that generates questions.”

—Eva Heisler, Colorado Review

“From her poems, you get this magisterial image of this slow, timeless, brooding spirit god, capricious and somewhat indifferent to all the ephemeral human activity at the surface,” he says slowly. “That resonates.”

—Michael Wysession, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences, The Common Reader

Katy Didden is the author of a previous poetry collection, The Glacier’s Wake (Pleiades Press, 2013). Her poems and essays have appeared most recently in Sewanee Review, West Branch, Public Books, and Ós Pressan. She teaches Poetry and Creative Writing and the Environment at Ball State University.

Kevin Tseng was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, California and studied biology and fine art at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently lives in Whitefish, Montana.

Additional information

Weight 0.5 lbs
Dimensions 8.5 × 8.5 in

Click here to access a complimentary suite of curricular materials designed by M. W. Merritt.

Course Material for Ore Choir