(from “Natural Causes”—topical science-based poems in progress)
The most important place on earth runs as deep as the Teton mountains are high, as broad as the distance from London to Russia is wide. Water converges there in the Southern Ocean from all around the world, flows under ice shelves, and spirals upward, cycling. The Antarctic circumpolar current, where the balance of water and wind circles the continent, is constant. It has always been constant. At every level of life and elements, water and wind, circling. Upwelling, downwelling. Cooling, warming. Salt water, fresh water: balancing all the air and water of the world. Balancing weather, crops, rainfall, from Norway to South Africa, from China to Brazil. All your seasons. All your lives: not just the zooplankton, the salps and krill, the cephalopods, seabirds and seals, the whales people first came there to hunt, but everything alive on land and sea. Its water is filled with the past, the present, a future. Laden with decay, the currents careen from millennia of perfectly balanced strength and speed, to currents slow and weak. History and destiny meet in the dead organisms dissolved over a thousand thousand years suddenly churning back to the surface like revenants, and outgassing their ancient, once-sunk carbon. Now the greater rains and storms. Now the change in temperatures, degrees of drought and brutal winds raging. Tropical waters drive themselves north. Northern waters, weighted with salt, increase, sink and flow south, downwelling. Greenland’s freshwater, newly freed from ice, upwelling, delays the Gulf Stream. Now the current thins and shrinks the austral glaciers, once the floating brakes of ice sheets. Once a miraculous force, the Atlantic meridional over- turning circulation: broken and spinning you off the world.
Poem and Photograph by Alice B Fogel
Alice B Fogel served as the New Hampshire poet laureate from 2104 through 2019. Her latest book is Nothing But: a series of indirect considerations on art & consciousness. A Doubtful House is her previous collection, preceded by Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” which won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature & the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry. An earlier book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it—which offers inroads to poetry useful for readers, reading groups, teachers, & writers. Nominated for Best of the Web & a dozen times for the Pushcart, she has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, & her poems have appeared in many journals & anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, The Inflectionist, & The Southern Review. She works one-on-one with students with learning differences at Landmark College, & hikes mountains whenever possible.
Link/s to book sales:
Nothing But reveals the disruptions—welcome or unsettling—to our stream of consciousness that occur when we encounter the unexplainable. In these poems, such suspensions of linear thought become a beckoning toward transcendence, an opening both deeper into, and out beyond, our perceptions in an otherwise prescribed world.
A marriage houses two wildly distinct entities, each one in turn a form containing its own unruly spirit. Addressing its inhabitants with humor, love, sorrow, anger, confusion, and hope, A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.
This series of poems responding to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” pays homage to a 274-year-old masterpiece and, with the theme of spirit and embodiment that music—and life itself—evoke, renders from it a luminous new interpretation. Bach created the Goldbergs’ 32 sections using nearly all the styles of western European music at the time; Fogel responds in kind with a range of contemporary poetic styles, including narrative, lyric, and experimental, all confined within the 32-line structure she has borrowed from the composer’s 32-bar format. Interval mimics the “baroque” effects of overlapping melodies and harmonies by layering sound, syntax, and sense in multiple voices exploring self, identity, and being.