On Migration: Dangerous Journeys and the Living World

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9781619021952: On Migration: Dangerous Journeys and the Living World
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"Life began with migration." In a magnificent tapestry of life on the move, Ruth Padel weaves poems and prose, science and religion, wild nature and human history, to conjure a world created and sustained by migration. 'We're all from somewhere else,' she begins. "Migration builds civilization but also causes displacement." From the Holy Family's Flight into Egypt, the Lost Colony on Roanoke and the famous photograph 'Migrant Mother', she turns to John James Audubon's journey from Haiti and France, heirlooms carried through Ellis Island, Kennedy's "society of immigrants" and Casa del Migrante on the Mexican border. But she reaches the human story through the millennia-old journeys of cells in our bodies, trees in the Ice Age, Monarch butterflies travelling from Alaska to Mexico. As warblers battle hurricanes over the Caribbean and wildebeest brave a river filled with the largest crocodiles in Africa, she shows that the purpose of migration for both humans and animals is survival.

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About the Author:

Ruth Padel is a British poet and writer devoted to conservation, music and Greece. She has published a novel, eight poetry collections including a lyric biography of her great great grandfather Charles Darwin, and eight works of non-fiction including a firsthand account of wild tiger conservation. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Council Member for the Zoological Society of London, and writes and presents BBC Radio 4's Poetry Workshop. She lives in London.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this collection, British conservationist and poet Padel (Tigers in Red Weather), the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, muses on the transient natures of creatures high and low, which she classifies using two types: Go and Stay, which encompasses both the spread of prehistoric plants from sea to land and the erratic movement of humans; and Go and Come Back, which includes birds going south for the winter and salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The book is structured as a mixture of poetry and prose, and, as Padel explains, the prose interludes are not essays but introductions to each run of poems. However, the poems in each set vary in topic to such a degree that the prose introduction, in trying to mirror that variety, ceases to feel like an introduction and instead becomes like a poem of its own. Migrations depicted in the poems include cells replicating courtesy of DNA helicase; fruit bats flying to Congo and pollinating the jungles; and refugees from Cuba floating across the ocean on a raft of chairs. Unfortunately, the prose passages are so lyrical that Padel undercuts the power of her poems, and scientific facts bog down the poetry—especially when those facts appeared previously in the introductions to various sections. The writing is beautiful, but the book often repeats itself. Agent: Robert Kirby, United Agents (London). (Sept.)

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