Alice Major observes the comedy and the tragedy of this human-dominated moment on Earth. Major’s most persistent question—“Where do we fit in the universe?”—is made more urgent by the ecological calamity of human-driven climate change. Her poetry leads us to question human hierarchies, loyalties, and consciousness, and challenges us to find some humility in our overblown sense of our cosmic significance.
Now, welcome to the Anthropocene you battered, tilting globe. Still you gleam, a blue pearl on the necklace of the planets.
This home. Clouds, oceans, life forms span it from pole to pole, within a peel of air as thin as lace lapped round an apple. Fair and fragile bounded sphere, yet strangely tough— this world that life could never love enough. And yet its loving-care has been entrusted to a feckless species, more invested in the partial, while the total goes unnoticed.
— from “Welcome to the Anthropocene”
About the author
Alice Major emigrated from Scotland at the age of eight, and grew up in Toronto before coming west to work as a weekly newspaper reporter. She served as the City of Edmonton’s first poet laureate from 2005–2007. Among her previous books are Memory's Daughter, for which she won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award in 2011; The Occupied World; and The Office Tower Tales, for which she won the Pat Lowther Award in 2009. In 2010, she received a lifetime achievement award, presented by the City of Edmonton and the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton.
- Short-listed, Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
- Short-listed, Raymond Souster Award / League of Canadian Poets
- Short-listed, Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry | Alberta Book Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta
"Welcome to the Anthropocene is a virtuosic, challenging book of poetry by Alice Major. This collection is by turns a lament, a dirge and a celebration of being on earth in this human-dominated moment.... It is a compelling book of tightly wrought, deeply skilled verse that contains within it the seeds of hope.... Major's ecologically minded poems demonstrate anew why poetry and art play leading roles in helping us to conceive of better times that are yet to come."
"There are poems about the workaday world, a poem written in the voice of a mouse, a poem about missing the Muse's house call because the poet—damn hygiene!—was in the shower."
"Because the universe is big and all but incomprehensible, the average Jills and Joes don’t dare ask too many existential questions. It is left to poets to face the truth in those places the rest of us fear to tread. The author of eleven books of poetry and essays, Edmonton’s first poet laureate, and a woman comfortable in the realms of math, science, and cosmology, Alice Major is uniquely qualified to guide humanity through perilous ecological times. Thank you, Alice."
"Alice Major begins "Welcome to the Anthropocene" by considering all the ways humans have meddled with the environment... The traditional and experimental forms which appear throughout the book reinforce Major's argument...and hint at unseen evolutionary forces at work; rhyming couplets which make up the first poem call to mind the 'base pairs' of DNA, even as they echo Pope's 'An Essay on Man.'... She excels at depicting situations when humans are themselves little more than kind animals, unusually intelligent but never quite intelligent enough, and often confounded by their own place in the ecosphere.
Maisonneuve, Winter 2017
# 1 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, March 11, 2018
# 8 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Poetry, December 01, 2019
"Major is a keen observer of the river and natural environment around her hometown of Edmonton and the way it is changing as a result of climate disruption. She has the dual ability to engage us in this particular locale as well as transport us to a universal place where we can examine the bigger questions of our time..." [Full article at https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2020/02/25/welcome-to-the-anthropocene/]
Artists and Climate Change
# 7 on Edmonton Poetry Bestsellers list, June 19, 2022
"...(the book’s title [Welcome to the Anthropocene] is a reference to the current geologic age, the one in which human activity is the dominant influence on the Earth’s physical environment). [Alice Major’s] work, art that reckons with science, is part of a long tradition."
"Welcome to the Anthropocene is a real achievement.... [These] poems are intelligent, philosophically and ethically searching, formally engaging, and dappled with precise information and detail..."
Edward A. Dougherty
"In Welcome to the Anthropocene, Major is not offering a guide to action so much as a guide to broadening the problem beyond the sometimes pat suggestions of political and environmental activists.... What Major adds here is the duality of the Anthropocene: our despair in the face of it and the fact that whether we avoid, protest, reform, or embrace this new world, we are still in it." [Full review at https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/great-chain-alice-majors-welcome-anthropocene/#!]
LA Review of Books
"Each section contains smaller poems on a wide variety of topics––like local ecology, office life, mathematics, community, the domestic sphere, time, cognitive illusions, and more. Though varied in subject, so many of these poems bring us back to the problem of being human; that is, we place ourselves at the centre and see the world around us through a distorted lens."
"Alice Major is that rarest of beings, a poet whose imagination is fired by science and mathematics.... [W]ith her broad range of sympathies and wide-ranging curiosity we have a sense of inclusiveness rare in contemporary poetry (which often prefers to live in a world of its own), and a comprehensive vision not afraid of dealing with public issues.... This is poetry with a brain as well as a heart--it not only makes us feel but also succeeds in making us think." [Full review at http://londongrip.co.uk/2018/08/london-grip-poetry-review-alice-major/]
London Grip Poetry Review
"Welcome to the Anthropocene is a poet’s take on the climate crisis, which blends math and science with poetry to produce a beautiful and wondrous examination of the natural world and humanity’s devastating impact on it. While such an undertaking could easily be defeatist, Major’s collection retains a sense of hope and genuine love for humanity that makes her poetry a refreshing read in an era plagued by eco-anxiety and negative climate news."
“Welcome to the Anthropocene is airy but tight … Major [is] someone who is unimpressed by the conforming type of self-satisfied nonconformist but who values the truly different, those who take an oblique angle on things.”
University of Toronto Quarterly, Summer 2020
# 8 on Edmonton Poetry Bestsellers list, February 14, 2021
“Poets work like naturalists or scientists. What they do is based on what has gone before. Alexander Pope wrote Essay on Man, one of the most quoted poems in the English language, in the 18th century… This collection is written in Alberta, in the 21st century. Its title poem, “Welcome to the Anthropocene”, has the same metre and rhyme scheme, and uses Pope’s poem as a platform for a survey of the world the poet sees.… There are a number of other fine poems, of varying lengths, touching a lot of subjects, with influences that seem to range from Gerard Manley Hopkins to a Peterson Field Guide.… The poems are serious, but the reader can expect to have fun reading them.” [Full review at http://canadianfieldnaturalist.ca/index.php/cfn/article/view/2087/1968]
The Canadian Field-Naturalist, vol. 131, no.4
"...Alice Major writes an ambitious work that addresses many of the issues besetting our times...[T]he collection is an intelligent work that presents and argues and wins us over in stunning metaphors and catchy measures reinforced by couplets..." [Full review at https://scholars.wlu.ca/thegoose/vol17/iss1/24]
"[A] confrontational yet compassionate collection of 57 poems that cut through the fluff of everyday life.... It takes courage to criticize this human-dominated planet, and compassion to remain accepting of humanity despite our collective faults. In place of answers to the questions that drive Major's poetry, she offers insight—and the insights she uncovers make Welcome to the Anthropocene deeply engaging, and wholly human."
"This wide-ranging and beautiful collection combines scientific knowledge of evolution, DNA, and mathematical formulas with a caring attention to the wondrous connections between human and non-human life." Canadian Literature, October 5, 2018 [Full review at http://canlit.ca/article/environmental-metamorphoses]
#5 on the Edmonton Poetry Bestsellers list, April 30, 2023
# 10 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, March 18, 2018