Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems
Published by FootHills Publishing, 2013
Stargazing in Brazil
To see stars
is to see hydrogen afire,
but perceive a constellation?
It is to read a story
told in metaphor.
Thus six bright points
of flaming light outline
the Great Hexagon
of the Amazon,
a tale goldly told
in feathered pairs:
flying from the equator
toward the first dawn of man.
Whether aboard an Amazon canoe, slowly floating downstream or on foot in the tangle of roots and vines, I went to Amazonas with a symbolic eye on the legendary tropical rainforest and its inhabitants, searching for its primal essence” is how poet Karla Linn Merrifield of Brockport, NY, succinctly conveys the poetic process as she explored the mightiest river on Earth during two expeditions – its flora and fauna, human history, and environmental challenges – in this her tenth collection, Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems. Merrifield’s is a deeply spiritual and sensual collection in which nature and the human-as-animal are integrated into the teaming web of life. Thus, “Wide Eyes in Brazil,” readers can vicariously experience “the sweep of tropical steam.” And in reading “Spectrum of Amazon Birds,” they too can confront one of the rarest owls in the world and allow themselves to “dream the river’s rhythm with mottled owls.”
Merrifield is also a well-informed tour guide to a world that few readers have the privilege to visit. Now they can travel the Amazon River through Brazil and Perui and never feel an insect sting, never get their feet wet, never sweat a drop as they discover the wonders of a world that is also under siege by deforestation.
Photographs as stunning as Merrifield’s poetic imagery:
Complementing the 33 poems in the collection are six of the author’s four-color trophy photographs, including the cover photograph, all taken on location in Brazil and Peru. “The photos are simply beautiful,” said Michael Czarnecki, the book’s publisher. An accomplished photographer, Merrifield’s visual art has graced poetry book covers for FootHills, Finishing Line Press, Rochester Ink and Mercury Heartlink, and have been published in numerous journals and magazines. In October 2012, dozens of her photographs illustrated an essay by poet William Heyen in the collaborative coffee-table book, The Green Bookcase (Hollybrook House Press).
Karla Merrifield’s poems introduce the reader to the Amazon rainforest, to a world that is both rooted in the senses and deeply mythical. Merrifield explores the magnificent complexity of the rainforest in all of its beauty and-at times-oppressiveness. Attaining Canopy describes a landscape of harsh wonder, one filled with monk saki monkeys, long-nosed bats, luxuriant jungle, equatorial rivers, mosquitoes and fire ants, viscid heat, and birds with strange and evocative names: hoatzin, orange euphonia, blue cotinga. Read these poems, and imagine the vastness, complexity, beauty, and power of Amazonas-and then consider that each year, a portion of it equal to the size of the United Kingdom is lost to deforestation. Read these poems, and then pray that Attaining Canopy is a celebration of what is and what shall endure, rather than a heartbreaking elegy for what we may lose.
– Chris Norment, professor, Environmental Science and Biology, the College at Brockport (NY); author of In the Memory of the Map: A Cartographic Memoir and Return to Warden’s Grove: Science, Design, and the Lives of Sparrows
Attaining Canopy. How stealthily benign is the title of Karla Linn Merrifield’s poetic capture of Amazon adventure; as though by “attaining” the collection might offer readers protection, to spare them the ordeal of jungle fright. Not so! Merrifield’s poems drench readers in pre-Jungian trauma; the “sauna primeval” that instantly rots every fret in civilization’s viola. Her skillful use of unusual forms-Fibonacci, hexagram, cameo, gestalt-attempt to bring order to this “country of countlessness,” but she is only partially successful. When (harmless) sweat bees cover “her scalp, throat, breasts intent upon licking me alive” she realizes the “horror is the swarm.” Merrifield is brilliant at articulating our primitive limbic brain, our amphibian selves. Her inner cavewoman percusses fear and desire-fight-flight-freeze. And like the harpy eagle she recalls from a visit to the San Diego zoo, in the Amazon she is “out of place and time,” entering “his habitat on his terms.” In such moments, when the geography is least known, Merrifield’s language skills soar, figuratively expressing precisely that which we imagine unnamable.