Order The Bloody Planet
From Black Lawrence Press, The Bloody Planet by Callista Buchen considers the local and the grand, the Earth-bound and the beyond. The geographies of the solar system become a way to look inward, searching, through strange landscapes and the meditations they inspire, for what it means to be human. Highlighting the gravity of place and what pulls us, The Bloody Planet explores what connects and separates, reading in the planets a universe of language, color, art, and work, even love.
The knoll. The waters. The knoll. The waters.
The sentence. The island. To understand it
geologically. This is the goal.
To burn out the invisible, to stand
until the sea and the heat overtake. To swim.
Until the buildings build each other
and all the books are broken spines.
Excerpt from “On Earth,” first published in Arsenic Lobster
In The Bloody Planet, Callista Buchen takes us on a breathtaking tour of the solar system, detailing the violent surfaces and inhospitable climates of each planet and leaving us in humble awe of our own. From Mercury’s hot, unstable mantle to Mars’s angry red dust to planet Uranus’s bitter cold, Buchen stands in wonder of these planets, where “giant spots maul whole /levels of world and swallow/themselves the dust afterwards.” Against this vast cosmic exploration, Buchen details an intimate, contained universe in the making of a home—planting a garden, bird-watching from the front porch, and painting cabinets. In the end, the deconstruction of a neighborhood house becomes a metaphor for the destruction of our planet: “We try to tell each other/that we don’t have any more nails,” Buchen writes. “That we don’t know//how to hold the hammer. Soon, the window will go, too./There will be nowhere for us to stand.” In these tightly crafted poems, Buchen wisely looks beyond Earth to draw our attention to Earth, issuing a bold and urgent warning for a world on the brink of its own demise: “See this, machine of humanity,” she writes. “Dust only multiplies. You are marching. You are a lion. You are/the bloody planet. You are painted red, a shrieking mouth.” Buchen’s poems are significant, vital—as gorgeous and unstoppable as the alien storms they describe.
—Alyse Knorr, author of Copper Mother and Annotated Glass
The enticing thing about Callista Buchen’s The Bloody Planet is its attention to landscape. Her poems encase the spirit with the wavy lines of a topographic map, and because the knobs and knolls and flaming fields of Earth are not sufficient for the task, she is forced to enlist the rest of the solar system. “To understand it // geologically. This is the goal,” Buchen writes, and she does a highly creditable job of the task in this arresting collection of poems.
—Karen Craigo, author of No More Milk and Stone for an Eye
At once intimate and expansive, and filled with discovery and wonder, the poems of The Bloody Planet examine a universe that is devastating, beautiful, resilient—where image, language, and stone break open, where “the ground writes, rewrites.” From Singapore to the “husk and yard of Ohio,” from Mercury to the “stylized dragonfly” of Neptune’s strata, these poems breathe strange and lovely atmospheres and cover vast landscapes, searching deep beneath their rich grounds. As I read and reread this collection, I am continually awed by the haunting geology of Buchen’s poems.
—Amy Ash, author of Open Mouth of the Vase and winner of the Cider Press Review Prize
What strikes most about Callista Buchen’s work is the mystery of the incentive behind it, her highly driven verbal investigation into matter, especially the merger of matter with human, how the raw material of the human speaks to its mutually created environment. Buchen’s poetic impulse, a deep-felt mission to capture the quintessence of our solar system, is far from usual. Her aim, not to anthropomorphize, nor to reduce to metaphor those spinning emblems of childhood-learning, is rather to weave, out of unexplained contacts that her speakers make with each planet, a combined mood, or hybrid psychology. It is a task so strange that the result, unsurprisingly, has the numinous luminosity of Xavier de Maistre’s “Journey around my room,” or Werner Herzog’s film, Heart of Glass, or any one of Loren Eiseley’s epiphanies at night with a bone. I love how space infiltrates these poems; how words occupy whatever space they can, and how small the human is at times, yet how conjoined the poet makes us feel with the larger medium of life, “fleshy swans, wet grapes,” all of it. By the end of this wondrous chapbook, everything is one medium—clay, metal, fire, virus, and definition itself becomes porous, thanks to this poet, who has seen “all the way around… the pool of time in between.” (“On Saturn”)
—Larissa Szporluk, author of Embryos and Idiots and Isolato