In which a young poet travels to Antarctica, draws a direct line between environmental fragility and human weakness, and chronicles her observations under titles starting with “In which....”
Martin’s debut collection was written during her recent stint as Antarctica’s poet-in-residence, as evidenced by the polar chill running through her work: Eco-devastation looms large, chaperoned by aching hearts and crises of faith. “[W]e’ve rocketed beyond the age of miracles,” she suggests, and “we are doomed to orbit back into the maw of our mistakes.” If this sounds a bit heavy-handed, that’s because it can be. But Martin’s sharp humor pops up in just the right places (“Helvetica is Satan’s favorite typeface”; “The purpose of mummification / is to make a good first impression”), and her asides about love and loss offer a balance of warmth. (A dark piece with an imposing title, “Repercussions of the Current Import/Export Ratio,” ends on this wistful note: “I asked the donkey / the odds you’ll ever come back.”) And if animals are your jam, you’ll find much to enjoy in these poems full of bears, bees, horses, pigs and a surprising number of house cats. Their sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle energy drives Martin’s writing and represents it well. By her account, people also spend time on all fours fending for themselves—a stark reminder of the debt we continue to owe to the natural world, which has a great champion in Martin.
Brave the Antarctic elements with a fiery tour guide who speaks in stanzas.