The epigraph for Rebecca Dunham's fourth book of poems, Cold Pastoral, is a quote by Muriel Rukeyser. It fits. Rukeyser, whose 1938 poem Book of the Dead chronicled the human cost of the Hawk's Nest mining disaster, is a clear antecedent to Dunham's poetry. Centering on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Cold Pastoral investigates the human cost of these calamities with a deft hand. In the collection's final poem, Dunham writes,
Who will witness what follows danger's first aftermath?
Who will document the crisis that bleeds on and on?
In this case, the answer is Dunham herself. Throughout this formally ambitious book, she composes an extended heartfelt elegy for the lives and livelihoods lost to human-caused environmental disaster. For a relevant and clear-eyed book of confident and clear docu-eco-poetry, it's hard to do better than Rebecca Dunhman's Cold Pastoral.
A searing, urgent collection of poems that brings the lyric and documentary together in unparalleled ways--unmasking and examining the specter of manmade disaster. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Hurricane Katrina. The Flint water crisis. Thousands dead, lives destroyed, and a natural world imperiled by human choices.