Anna Zumbahlen reviews ECODEVIANCE by CAConrad

February 1, 2016 0 Comments Uncategorized 3801 Views
book cover

Book cover from publisher’s website.

CAConrad, Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness. Wave Books, 2014. ISBN# 9781940696010 (7.5×10 160pp, paper and cloth). $22.00

Review by Anna Zumbahlen


Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014) presents an antidote to disconnection – from each other, from our own bodies, from the earth. (Soma)tic rituals are CAConrad’s challenge to compartmentalized thought and the common inability to be present. The objective of the (Soma)tics is to be wholly, physically present in the moment, and the rituals provide structure for presence from which distraction is impossible. Extreme presence is his point of entry into the act of writing; his poems arise from notes taken throughout the processes of his (Soma)tics, rituals that range from reading contemporary poetry to ghosts, to facilitating a silent meeting group with strangers, to meditating on thirst and drinking directly from the sky in heavy rain. Ecodeviance is possibly the most accurate word for what he does, which could be termed a departure from accepted behavior in the service of ecological awareness and the study of the interactions between our human selves and our environment.

The narrative that links the (Soma)tic rituals in Ecodeviance to each other and to those in CAConrad’s other book of (Soma)tics, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (Wave Books, 2012), reveals him as a human. He unapologetically addresses the multifaceted hypocrisies and violences of the human condition, but his work is not without unadulterated celebration of beauty. He’ll mourn the emotional fallout of abuse and hatred, but he will also claim a small quartz crystal as his own and nest it in a bed of salt overnight. He’ll read Shakespearean sonnets to it, sleep with it beneath his pillow, ask it to translate poetry into his dreams. (“I talk to our planet’s crystal bones! So can you!”) And he’ll write poetry from the deep emotional space that arises from this kind of ritual. At its core, CAConrad’s poetry is a reclamation of purity.

CAConrad is also a champion of what he refers to as “the creative viability of everything” around him. In a recording with PoetryNow he asserts that, “Poets can do whatever they want.” For him, this is not abstract romantic whimsy. He is faithful to his (Soma)tic process, which deconstructs the conventions acting on him as a poet and as a citizen by forcing him to experience the rawness of a moment unsullied by judgment and retrospection. Taking objective notes on the situations that arise from (Soma)tics necessitates a renegotiation of language. And he will readily admit that the intensity of presence and poetry frightens people sometimes. If they don’t like it, “Too bad,” he says. “So go read a novel.”

CAConrad is the sort of poet who carries vials of glitter everywhere he goes. I know this because a few years ago, at the summer writing program at Naropa University, he solemnly emptied the contents of one of these vials in my hair when I told him I was nervous about reading a poem aloud in front of a room full of people. This gesture was, of course, tremendously reassuring, and this is the role that CAConrad and his poetry play in the world: fearless insistence on beauty, on sparkle, in the face of anything that threatens genuine expression. In fact, perhaps I am being too soft-spoken about this book, for CAConrad himself would INSIST, would DEMAND attention to poetry, would THRUST his poetry into the world. In one of his (Soma)tics, he writes that “it’s important to GO, GET GOING, GO SOMEWHERE.” I read this as a directive to WRITE, READ, and SPARKLE.


Author Biography

author photo

Photo courtesy of author’s website. Bio from publisher website.

CAConrad is the author of ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014), A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (Wave Books, 2012) and The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010/Chax Press, 2009), as well as several other books of poetry and essays. Most recently, he has co-edited Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners (Wave Books, 2015). A 2014 Lannan Fellow, a 2013 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2011 Pew Fellow, he also conducts workshops on (Soma)tic poetry and Ecopoetics. 

Reviewer Biography

Anna Zumbahlen is a graduate of the creative writing department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is currently an AmeriCorps volunteer in Iowa, where she listens and writes and learns and mostly hangs out with lightning bugs in cornfields.


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