Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, Amelia Gorman. (Interstellar Flight Press, 2021) 63 pp. https://www.interstellarflightpress.com/new-releases.html
Review by Lisa Timpf
Amelia Gorman’s Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota uses invasive flora and fauna as a jumping-off point for 21 speculative poems. The title entities include zebra mussels, spiny waterflea, trapdoor snails, mute swans, and flowering rush. Some of the invasive species depicted, like Norway maple and garlic mustard, were familiar to me; others, less so. This made me appreciate the illustrations, taken for the most part from open source and public domain sources, that accompanied each of the poems.
Some of the poems are explicitly set in the future, as demonstrated by the inclusion of dates; others implicitly so. Climate change, wars, and post-apocalyptic worlds provide the backdrop to some of the entries. For example, in the prose poem “Trapdoor Snail,” Gorman includes the lines:
there was still no fathoming the waters.
Cloudy life, algae, fading secchi discs,
fish scales hiding something
bottomless from us.
The narrator in “Walnut Twig Beetle” notes “I’ve been eating beetles since the crops died/ and the basement with the preserves flooded”.
In “Zebra Mussel,” Gorman depicts a changed world. Loons no longer have legs, while sunfish do. Fishers are equipped with metal teeth, and snapping turtles are endowed with fur, while the narrator states, “I try to remember the way the world is supposed to work.”
Not all of the poems are dark. Some images are more whimsical, as in “Queen Anne’s Lace”:
Queen Anne’s Lace tats together
its strange beauty, grafts itself up
an iron mountain, wild wedding dress.
“Spiny Waterflea” begins with the lines “The spiny water fleas enjoy a game of water polo. See their good sportsmanship as they flit about to congratulate the winners and assure the losers of their good play.”
The author’s note is worth reading as well, providing some high-level context on invasive species and the Gorman’s mixed feelings about them. Gorman articulates the hope that the poems “help other people see the beauty and weirdness that I think is under the surface of any living thing. Because each one of these plants and animals is beautiful and weird.”
Only one of the poems, “Brittle Naiad,” is credited as being previously published, which means that the collection mainly represents new work. Brought to fruition by indie speculative publisher Interstellar Flight Press, Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota is set for release September 6, 2021.
Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her speculative poetry has appeared in New Myths, Liminality, Apparition Lit, Polar Borealis, and other venues. Her reviews have appeared in Star*Line, The Miramichi Review, The Future Fire, and Aethlon. You can find out more about Lisa's writing at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.
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