Thursday, October 29, 2015

What Haunts the Modern Mind?

Yesterday we had a Spooky Poetry Reading in the library.  I haven't really written much in the way of traditional Halloween poetry--the only supernatural elements in my poem are usually spiritual, and that's not the kind of poetry reading we had in mind.

I thought about writing something for the event, which we started planning a month ago.  Could I channel my inner Poe?

But the month of October was not conducive to writing new work for a variety of reasons.  And so, I wondered what to read.

I decided on "Life in the Holocene Extinction."  It's full of modern fear.  Once we might have been frightened of dark woods.  Now it's hard to find a dark forest. 

I wondered if students would relate to the fear that the poem contains.  I wondered if I should spare them, let them stay innocent awhile longer.

I also wondered if they would understand the reference.  I've begun to worry that while the phrase "Holocene Extinction" is familiar to me, that it might not be to the wider world.

My dad wrote me an e-mail to congratulate me on my chapbook acceptance.  He said, "The 'Holocene Extinction in the title is a term I wasn’t familiar with.   Google and Wikipedia came up with all the info I needed to know about that term.  I’m more anxious than ever to read the chapbook and find out what you have to say about 'the human impact on the environment.'"

It's good to know that even after researching the term, my dad wanted to read my poems.  At least he didn't say, "No.  Too gloomy."  Of course, he's my dad, so he's perhaps not representative of a typical reader.

Yes, the modern fears:  extinction, habitat loss, job loss, no readers--those are the things that haunt me!

If you want to feel similarly spooked, here's the poem.  It first appeared here, with haunting art work to accompany it, at Escape Into Life.

Life in the Holocene Extinction

I complete the day’s tasks
of e-mails and reports and other paperwork.
I think about which species
have gone extinct
in the amount of time it takes
to troll the Internet.
I squash a mosquito.

He drives to the grocery store
to pick up the few items he needs
for dinner: shark from a distant
sea, wine redolent of minerals from a foreign
soil. He avoids the berries
from a tropical country with lax
control of chemicals.

As she packs up her office,
she thinks about habitat loss,
those orphaned animals stranded
in a world of heat and pavement.
She wishes she had saved
more money while she had a job.
She knows she will lose the house.
She wonders what possessions
will fit into her car.

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