Hot off the presses.
The Portuguese word for “hummingbird” is beija-flor—flower-kisser. In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli is the hummingbird god, the bloodthirsty god of war, requiring nourishment in the form of constant human sacrifices to ensure that the sun will rise again. In this book, Barger documents his recent itinerant years in closely observed, honest, and sometimes surreal episodes: on the filthy streets of Delhi, inside a statue of Buddha in Taiwan, and on the back of a Vespa in Rome. The hummingbird is a territorial, aggressive creature whose life depends upon its quest for fuel, compelling it to taste up to one thousand flowers per day. Its pulse, as it flies eight hundred kilometers across the Gulf of Mexico, can rise up to twenty-one beats per second. In these gritty poems, the furor of the hummingbird’s desire to survive and the roving spirit of the poet merge to compel a reading of life in flux that is at once breathtaking, agitated and fragile.
Entombed within a thirty-kilometre-deep seam of rock, the fossils of Joggins, Nova Scotia are pried from a cliff-face by a version of the ocean out of which their creatures evolved—for the first time on Earth—more than three-hundred-million years ago. With probing metaphors and a keen eye on science, the poems in Origins create a multi-faceted portrait of evolution, extinction and climate change. Centered on the powerful Bay of Fundy, Origins compares the displaced, prehistoric marks of fossils with cultural marks like art and books. These varied poems observe eternal traces and lingering residues, from fossilized footprints to landscape sculpture to pollution and industrialization. With only one bone in a billion fossilized and a perpetually changing planetary surface, these celebratory yet cautionary poems also investigate chance, loss and ruin. The intersection of forces, which both create and destroy, are echoed by poems devoted to transitory art, the human addiction to energy, and an evolving media history (from nineteenth-century field drawings to twenty-first-century digital libraries). Origins is a nuanced ledger for a troubled world.