Dear Specimen: Poems
A National Poetry Series winner, selected and with a foreword by Kwame Dawes.
A 5-part series of interwoven poems from a dying parent to her daughter, examining the human capacity for grief, culpability, and love, asking: do we as a species deserve to survive?
Dear Specimen opens with both its speaker and her planet in peril. In “Speak to Me,” she puzzles over a millipede, as if the blue rune of its body could help her understand her impending death and the crisis her species has created. Throughout the collection, poems addressed to specimens echo the speaker’s concern and amplify her wonderment. A catalog of our climate transgressions, Dear Specimen’s final poem foretells a future in which climate refugees overrun one of our planet’s last habitable places.
The collection’s lifeblood is a series of poems in which the speaker and her daughter express their concern for, and devotion to, one another. The daughter’s questions mirror the ones her mother asks of specimens: what are we meant to do with so much hazard and wonder? When the speaker hints at the climate crisis in a bedtime story she tells her grandson, we, too, feel the peril he may face.
Juxtaposing a profound sense of intimacy with the vastness of geological time, the collection offers a climate-conscious critique of the human species—our search for meaning and intimacy, our capacity for greed and destruction. Dear Specimen is an extended love letter and dire warning, not only to the daughter its speaker leaves behind but to all of us.