Life-List is a meditation on memory, love, and grief organized through the language of birding. From a fluttering first kiss to the frantic flapping of the last captive passenger pigeon on Earth looking for her mate, Life-List explores the relation of the individual to her incessantly disappearing habitat.
“we have lost something in the translation / of time into language,” Jessica Smith writes in this lovely book of experimental poems Life-List. But breaking open the words, she enables “that which would kill you” to burst into flowers, creating the space—of breath, of spirit, of imagination—to let the birds in this book of birds fly through.
Ann Fisher-Wirth, author of Dream Cabinet, Carta Marina
Dinosaurs did not go extinct. Approximately 10,000 extant species of birds appear to be descended from a subgroup of theropods, a heritage that includes our childhood idol T Rex as well as the bee hummingbird. Birders know the richness of heeding their presence & variety, the divination of alectryomancy, the creation of life-lists. Any reader who heeds the n apart from hero in heron will recognize how birds articulate space & vice versa, how a life looking outward can be invested with our deepest interiors. The Brain, a very smart woman once wrote, is wider than the sky.
Ron Silliman, author of Revelator and The Alphabet
Life-List (Chax Press 2015) is about birds and memory–specifically, it’s an homage to the “life-list,” the list that a birdwatcher keeps of all the birds she’s seen and in what context she first saw them. A life list becomes a record of travel, of personal memory, and of shifting avian territories.
The poems are written in open field/plastic style to disrupt the reader’s attention and make him/her enter them mindfully. If poetry can make us better understand/allow ambiguity and difference in the world, my aesthetic desire is for people to enter their worlds newly, with interest and wonder.
With the title Island of Iridescent Tree, Life-List was a finalist for the 2012 Nightboat Poetry Prize. Life-List is separated into two parts, “Observation” and “Memory.” “Observation” was initially published in 2001 as a chapbook called bird-book (blue moon press, later republished online by Detumescence Press; reviewed at Galatea Resurrects by Steven Fama), and much of “Memory” was published in 2013 as a chapbook titled mnemotechnics (above/ground press). Selections previously appeared in Ferrum Wheel (Issue 1); ixnay (7); name (4/5); Queen Street Quarterly (5.3); knives out (3); serving suggestion (4); Evening May Come; Tarpaulin Sky; N/A Literary Journal (1); Open Letters Monthly (July 2013); Terry Cuddy’s film Transient Views of Western New York (2001); and Monica Karwan, Brett Mastellar and Chelsea Warren’s music/dance environment, musicartmovement (2003).