These pieces are part of a series of lipograms, writing that excludes one or more letters. The poems take as their starting place the names of endangered species and emerged out of a desire to manage my own climate despair. Specifically, I’m working with modified beautiful outlaws, which I’ve named “extinctions” (lipograms that do not use the letters in the subject’s name—in this case, the name of the endangered species), to explore what happens when what is endangered is instead absent—gone. The formal strategy of the lipogram nods to the global trends regarding climate change and strategies of elimination (eliminating carbon emissions, red meat consumption, plastic, etc.).
Here’s a beast-less fable, a feckless tale, seasick with rhythm
A trawl’s empire has twelve fish, excess shrimp, yesteryear’s kelp palaces, plastics
as empires “have” at the behest, at the helm
a machete clears
Here’s a fable: all the beasts
keep their “all” Malaise sets, celestial-like,
a hemisphere at a time
Time is feral after all yet trackable
If a library is with bestiary as a wife is with babe
prepare a lap, alter a breast (altar it)
What lives is a liver: a part, a piece a meerkat
that’s a clapper that strikes the mammal bell
edified by renewed cells but, besides insides’ surprise un-ruins,
terrible utterly / / delinquent relief sulking
elsewhere in reruns, we review Eden’s western lung
wheezing, punctured by infinite suffering this denuded
requiem just ting beside ting this single bell stuffing its
gutted tin pelt pretending this swinging pistil will still seed
Kristi Maxwell is the author of seven books of poetry, including My My (Saturnalia Books. 2020) and Bright and Hurtless (Ahsahta Press, 2018). She is an associate professor of English at the University of Louisville.
Bette Ridgeway has exhibited her work globally with over 80 museums, universities and galleries, including Palais Royale, Paris and the embassy of Madagascar. Multiple prestigious awards include Top 60 Contemporary Masters, Leonardo DaVinci Prize, and Oxford University Alumni Prize at Chianciano Art Museum, Tuscany, Italy. Ridgeway’s art has permanent public placements at the Mayo Clinic, the Federal Reserve Bank, and elsewhere. Many publications have featured her work, including International Contemporary Masters and 100 Famous Contemporary Artists. Ridgeway has also written about her work.
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