Penguins in a Warming World

Penguins in a Warming World, cover photo.

In these 66 poems—three of which were nominated for a 2007 Pushcart Prize—Anca Vlasopolos describes life and loss, ecology and extinction, in heart-breakingly beautiful images that cause readers to catch their breath at every line. The subject matter ranges from nature, both beautiful and blighted, to blighted urban areas like Detroit (sometimes beautiful in their blight), to characters (actual, fictional, mythological), to the poet’s mother. Like all good poetry, it explores the human condition; like all great poetry, it offers insights into that condition that surprise the reader with a truth suddenly revealed.

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Critical Comments

“It’s difficult to write a brief comment on a volume of poems as important as Penguins in a Warming World by Anca Vlasopolos. In this strong and imaginative collection, dominated by an extraordinary control of language, we follow a trek from a vision of the world around us to its dissolution. Through a concrete and often dramatic imagination, the book renders the paradox that defines our schizophrenic age vividly and brilliantly.”
— Ralph Freedman, novelist, award-winning translator, author of numerous scholarly studies and essays, and of the definitive biography Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke

“Anca Vlasopolos is one of Detroit’s finest poets. Her poems reach out to the greater world of art and literature while she maintains a rich urban perspective and spirit. Travel with her through this collection of poems, and you will become better connected to a new world of poetry that is waiting for us all to become more engaged and active.”
— M.L. Liebler, poet, essayist, activist, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize.

“Anca Vlasopolos’s voice is new and violent, witness to humanity’s multiple cruelties, and to the carelessness that has given rise to ‘penguins in a warming world.’ In response, her poems are full of caring, showing itself first in a profound caring for language—ornate, precise, original, memorable—and on subjects that break us into tears: tales, images, cries from the heart and from history’s victims, each repeating the universal story of irremediable loss, of family and kin, of the beloved earth and its creatures, of belief and hope itself. Penguins in a Warming World is driven by passionate grief and love and, finally, by the desire to find meaning yet and still, ‘in the perhaps empty brilliance of stars.’”
— Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of five books of poetry, a memoir, three books of short stories, two novels, and winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the American Book Award.

“Anca Vlasopolos writes clear-eyed and generous poetry. The poems in Penguins in a Warming World move by narrative and association, through science and religion, from St. Clair Street in Detroit to a quiet fountain in a mosque of the medieval city on Rhodes, to the beasts of the field and the bugs that crawl on them. She titles one poem ‘The Awful Holiness of Every Thing,’ and her success is measured by her ability, manifest throughout this superb collection, to convince us of the omnipresence of both the terror and the pity.”
— Keith Taylor, poet, short-story writer, and winner of the Keeley and Sherrard Award for translation of Costas Karyotakis’s poetry

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