Compelled by loss of knowledge, species, habitat and traditions, Kavanagh elucidates the endurance of what is no longer physically apparent. Extinctions and an exploration of the Red List (the endangered species list for Nova Scotia) are important to this work. The poems grapple with human culpability, but also ask: What will happen as human relationships with non-human animals and other living things diminish? What will happen if we become extinct? These larger questions about our future in a changing climate are inextricably linked to specific inquiries into what we have lost by reducing certain habitats, hunting particular species to the brink of extinction, and abandoning place-specific traditions and practices. Our sadness surrounding extinction seems to confirm E. O. Wilson’s Biophilia (life-loving) hypothesis, our basic need for other life; however, a uniquely human self-loathing distances us from the very life-affirming and life-giving connections that we require. How do we move beyond despair? What happens after extinction? What is regained through the revival of traditions, the restoration of habitats, re-introductions of species? Is this a moment to be both patient and visionary, to see beyond destruction to whatever natural renewal will occur without more intervention, or should we cautiously explore the “re-animations” and “de-extinctions” proposed by the scientific community?
About the author
Basma Kavanagh is a poet, visual artist, and letterpress printer who lives and works in Nova Scotia, in Mi’kma’ki. She produces artist's books under the imprint Rabbit Square Books. She has published two collections of poetry, Distillo (Gaspereau, 2012), and Niche (Frontenac, 2015), which won the 2016 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2019 NS Masterworks Arts Award. The book-length poem, Ruba’iyat for the Time of Apricots (Frontenac, 2018), was shortlisted for the 2019 J.M. Abraham Poetry award and won the Book Publishers Association of Alberta’s Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry Book of the Year. Www.basmakavanagh.ca
“Basma Kavanagh’s spritely genius is both fierce and delicate, biologically exact and artistically complex. This is work of wide scope: deep, informed mourning for what humans have done to the earth, and equally deep, equally informed hope for what might survive us.”