Poems for the Apocalypse

Dark Archive2011 has been off to a rough start, to put it mildly. From the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear crisis, to violent revolutions in the Middle East, to deadly tornadoes and flooding in the American South, it’s enough to make one want to hide in a bunker for the rest of the year.

Now that we’re told the impending apocalypse arrives on Saturday, I can’t think of a better time to crack open Laura Mullen’s fourth poetry collection, Dark Archive. The purpose of a dark archive is to function as a repository for information that can be used as a failsafe during disaster recovery.

Mullen’s book is a sequence of beautifully interrelated poems that explores how to accurately represent the reality of change and loss. Poetic tropes are measured against natural phenomena as Mullen examines what “witness” might mean in the context of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and other social and personal failures.

Sam Tanenhaus’s recent New York Times essay, “The Poetry of Catastrophe,” provides a helpful framework for thinking about Mullen’s work. “One of the enduring paradoxes of great apocalyptic writing,” he says, “is that it consoles even as it alarms. … To name the catastrophic demon won’t slay it. But it can help chase our fears out of the shadows and into the sunlight.”

While you’re riding out the apocalypse in your bunker, make sure to bring your iPhone, so you can view a flow-movie of Srikanth Reddy‘s poem “Untitled [Is is]” using the Academy of American Poets’ Poem Flow app. Not sure what a flow-movie is? Take a look below.

For further bunker reading, see Garrett Caples’ engrossing essay, “Work, or The Man Who Shot Frank O’Hara,” on Richard O. Moore. Caples talks about Moore’s career in public broadcasting, and meditates on what it means to be a poet who works.

Moore’s recent poetry collection, Writing the Silences, will make an excellent companion while you wait for the skies to clear. Selected from seven full-length manuscripts written between 1946 and 2008, the poems reflect not only Moore’s place in literary history, but his commitment to freedom of form, his interest in language itself, and his dedication to issues of social justice and ecology.

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