For booklet issue #16, the series published a new poetry chapbook by wren cuidadx romero-gilhooly titled when phoenix flooded. Something I loved about these poems was that they brought a carefully observed, very detailed realism together with the impossible and the spiritual to create this both grounded and transcendent anti-capitalist vision of the unfolding climate apocalypse. So here is a vision that at its heart takes into account the structures of race and class that shape this particular end of the world; in these pages, where you and I and we blend into one, you'll walk past god on the street and the bills will pile up on the kitchen counter while the temperature increases year after year as they write in the poem Heat // the last five year: "Last / year was the hottest on record. Next will be hotter. / 12 more years of this, and we can never go back. Never."
There's definitely a richness to the politics of the poems, but I also want to make note of how the poems get there, their fluid movement and visual tension and their subtle sense of time. First of all, time has a way of becoming wonderfully confused in when phoenix flooded, or rather time isn't treated as a fixed thing but instead possibilities flourish as multiple currents of time are allowed to overlap, as time speeds up and slows down, as time breaks down. The final poem and the chapbook as a whole take their title, when phoenix flooded, from a singular event: a historic flood that so submerged the city that, as the poem says, "children... dove into the parks / and swam." Only the flood is also a recurring event; we can read these poems as showing the flood began with the colonization of the southwest and it has never let up, or that what we are drowning in (maybe you know this feeling too) is nostalgia and the weight of memory, or perhaps that the flood is our debts and private/collective tragedies under capitalism.
But just as various moments can exist simultaneously (as in the poem If All Patterns Remain Consistent, in which the author anticipates the next fifty years of their financial life based on having debts and next to nothing today), so do the poems cut, revisit, and stop time. In A working theory of history based on what I learned in the back of my friend's box chevy on our way to practice in a barren field on irrigation day, the phrase "THE COLONIZER..." repeats ("THE COLONIZER STRETCHES OUT BENEATH US... THE COLONIZER WHISPERS... THE COLONIZER BLINKS") , giving a sense of time itself being stretched to its limit as this ominous encounter is played back from memory and plays out over the centuries of colonialism.
The two burning haibun poems, where the poem breaks across the page as it move through three cycles of itself, are another example where we can see wren's technique pair devastatingly with their vision. a light..., which begins with a prose poem where the narrator encounters god asking for help on the street but lies and gives less cash than what they have on them, where the poem spirals into questions asked of god, unanswered questions ("why did i lie? god what am i supposed to do? give every dollar to every voice that asks?"), before erasing down into a new poem for its next iteration. This new poem is a burned out version of the prose poem before it; here, the same events take place but now the narrator takes a more fatalistic view, accepting what they've done rather than demanding forgiveness. And in the final iteration, it's god that has lied, the moment passes almost instantaneously, and though we learn at last that the flood is impending, the poem closes with a promise of selflessness that feels honest, recognition perhaps of what will be needed as the end draws nearer.
There's more that I wanted to say, but it's late and I need to finish up here and apologize for being so late with this update. I'll actually be posting again tomorrow with some important news; I'll be posting the text of booklet #17, TWO ESSAYS ON CRIME by Carbine and Jackie, along with a review by Alloiza Mari (@cumtrygal on twitter), who will hopefully stay on as a monthly, paid reviewer for the series. I've also got the text for booklet #18 (three stories by Mors (@mors_lakota on twitter) ready and am just working on the design for it, so scheduling for the series is not so far off track now.