Poet Elizabeth Bradfield "Toward Antarctica" Reading & Book Signing
East End Books Ptown is happy to welcome back Poet Elizabeth Bradfield for the Launch of her new book "Toward Antartica."
Toward Antarctica is an innovating lyric travelogue of photographs and writing by poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield. A book that challenges, documents, and queries one of the most iconic wild corners of the world, any reader with a passion for poetry and worldly excursions will delight in Bradfield’s ecotour of Antarctica.
Poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield’s fourth collection documents and queries her work as a guide on ships in Antarctica, offering an incisive insider’s vision that challenges traditional tropes of The Last Continent. Inspired by haibun, a form the 17th-century poet Bashō invented to chronicle his journeys in remote Japan, Bradfield uses photographs, compressed prose, and short poems to examine our relationships to remoteness, discovery, expertise, awe, labor, temporary societies, tourism’s service economy, and “pure” landscapes. Antarctica was the focus of Bradfield’s Approaching Ice, written before she had set foot on the continent; now Toward Antarctica furthers her investigation with boots on the ground. A complicated love letter, Toward Antarctica offers a unique view of one of the world’s most iconic wild places.
Modern expedition ships sail south to Antarctica every year, carrying continent-baggers and bucket-listers who drink a toast to Shackleton, pat themselves on the back and heroically claim, ‘We made it!’ It takes a poet, and a darn good one, “to at once be there and to not even come close.” This is Elizabeth Bradfield writing to the truth in what she calls, “crepuscular moments of poetry . . . Here on this unbridled ocean. Here on this world unto itself.” Having been to Antarctica many times, and studied its literature, I found this book an artful standout from the crowd, one garnished with reflection and rust, humor and humility, sincerity, and respect.—Kim Heacox, author of Antarctica: The Last Continent, Jimmy Bluefeather, and The Only Kayak
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Writer/naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of the poetry collections Once Removed, Approaching Ice, Interpretive Work, and Toward Antarctica. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, West Branch, Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, Orion and elsewhere. Winner of the Audre Lorde Prize from the Publishing Triangle, finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, her awards also include a Stegner Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Scholarship, and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. She lives on Cape Cod with her partner, works as a naturalist/guide locally as well as on expedition ships around the globe, and is Associate Professor and co-director of creative writing at Brandeis University. Follow her at www.ebradfield.com.
MORE PRAISE FOR TOWARD ANTARCTICA
So many of us hunger for Antarctica. For its promise of something so notably new to our experience, pristine. Though very little is wholly pristine on this planet; very little is free of our “fantastic, greasy hope.” It seems fitting that in her deep and thoughtful journey to the site of so many voyager’s ambitions Elizabeth Bradfield would turn to the form Bashō found so useful for his own Narrow Road to the Interior. A naturalist, poet, and photographer, Bradfield is as keen eyed about the continent and its surrounding islands as she is about the souls counted present on the ship that takes them there. This balance between expansive views and focused clarity make reading Approaching Antarctica almost as good as sailing there ourselves.
—Camille T. Dungy, author of Trophic Cascade and editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
Toward Antarctica is a travelogue, a meditation, a photo-essay, a documentary poem, an ode, and an elegy. It is a work of eco- and cultural criticism, personal essay, history, and photojournalism. Like the poem-prose hybrid haibun form which provides the structural basis for this book, Toward Antarctica moves between different genres and literary forms, challenging our notion of what a travel narrative can and should be. The best writers understand that all works of literature are hybrids at heart, and Elizabeth Bradfield pushes the limits of what we imagine poetry can do, capturing her time in Antarctica in lush, yet always tightly controlled images that throb with musical life. —Paisley Rekdal, author of Imaginary Vessels and Intimate: An American Family Photo Album
FROM TOWARD ANTARCTICA
Distant surf. Distant fur seal shore-bustle. Silence of known but unseen distances in the cragged, unoccupied interior. Wind through tussac and rising up rising up calls (like washrags swept across window screens) of penguins. One king stands over another laid flat, lifeless but somehow less than dead because sockets eye-occupied, unemptied by skua plunge. Still attended by another (male, female no dimorphism allows that marker). And I—voyeur, witness—also attend.
body, beak, feet, splain
slow perishing toward slow soil
what grows from absence?
The standing king cries. To beckon? Ward off? Others move in, heads low, move off. Jab & nod. Jab & nod. No idea how long this will continue. No idea what the dead one died of. Get group A back to ship (deploy art of unpushy herding though most, grown chilled, have left already) after the allotted time (one hour). Next round beach-stationed, so no follow-up. I won’t return again this season.