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Cartographies of Scale (and Wing)


Meditations on Map-Making and Migration

Cartographies of Scale (and Wing) is a collection of 59 poems exploring the maps that people make to make sense of the world, the maps that birds make in their migrations, and the paths that immigrants follow in search of their place in the world.

The collection is a meditation on map-making and on migration. We humans draw imaginary lines to segment the globe for our purposes as if it were vacant land, forgetting or unaware of the living lines of migration; these traverse the globe seasonally, or, on occasion, through mass movements, human and non-human.

 The poet pays homage to two scientists, Gerardus Mercator and Nathaniel Bowditch, whose work was enormously useful for safer navigation and more accurate cartography, but unwittingly helped lead to conquest, decimation, and in some cases extinction of native habitats, peoples, and non-human life.

These poems celebrate life that often passes unnoticed (intertidal creatures, migrating and “common” birds, amphibians, reptiles, non-charismatic mammals, disregarded humans) and advocate for its worth, habitats, and right to existence.

Praise for Cartographies of Scale (and Wing)

“A significant contribution to the literature of the ecological imagination, which brings human histories of territorial mastery together with nature’s ‘flitting shape-shifting’ creations, through poetics as precise as the maps the poems recreate and as delicate as the dragonfly wings they celebrate: this is Vlasopolos’s finest work in a long line of strong books.” — Shirley Geok-lin Lim, winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and author of Among the White Moon Faces, winner of the American Book Award


“Anca Vlasopolos is one of the most talented poets writing today, as well as one of the most humane. All of Anca’s poetry bespeaks a love and respect for and intimate knowledge of the natural world; she is engaged in global issues that affect all species on our planet. These egalitarian attitudes toward all species inform Anca’s current work on animal geographies, Cartographies of Scale (and Wing).

“The poems from this new collection are at once concrete and elegiac, both political and poetic in their argument and lament for all creatures’ right to habitat and migration spaces—to existence itself rather than extinction. In all of these luminous poems, Anca Vlasopolos urgently calls to us, asking readers to recognize human lives as intertwined with those of all creatures on Earth.

“In ‘Lost Bearings,’ Anca describes the incomparable moment of seeing a woodpecker—not a photograph or painting of a bird, but the real thing—and this moment becomes a meditation not only on representation and on nature and art but also upon wonder: ‘see this familiar woodpecker/ black-and-white striations more elegant than any evening dress/ now veiled in citron/ this afternoon/ bathed in honey light/ turns all to gold dust/ glamour fills my eyes.’ Yet, by the poem’s close, a more somber note is struck, the ‘lost bearings’ of the title, as the speaker discovers her birdwatching is ‘binding me fast/ to this loud silence/ these flitting shape-shifters/ this lingering late-fall disquiet.’

“‘Sailing to Lampedusa’ is a darker vision of all creatures seeking life and a home.  Desperate African emigrants to Italy and Spain are compared to migratory birds, but they are not as successful in navigation: ‘they cross like storks/ like cranes/ like swallows/ these tricky waters on leaky vessels/ so many foundering/ so many joining the chain of human bones/ that stretches across this sea and all of the Atlantic.’” — Deborah Denenholz Morse, author of Reforming Trollope and editor of Victorian Animal Dreams

Click here to read Jahleh Ghanbari's review of the collection in Poetry International, December 15, 2015. 

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