A Paleontologist's Notebook

Susan Smith Nash

During her paleontological work in the southwestern United States and Bolivia, Susan Smith Nash recorded findings in a set of field books.A Paleontologist's Notebook contains interconnected poems and prose writings processed from the information she compiled. "The river was a braided stream, filled with sand bars and shallow crossings." In his introduction, David Matlin remarks that her work "reminds me of William Carlos Williams's essay on Poe, where he says: 'Poe saw the end; unhappily he saw his own despair at the same time; yet he continued to attack ... seeking to discover, and discovering, points of firmness by which to stand and grasp, against the slipping ... His attack was from the center out.'" The same desperation is at work in these poems. Nash attacks as determinedly, as coolly, as did Poe: "...but look / I have my partial claw ... half-preserved & half erased / a measure I hold graphically correlate w/my life to find or forget compressed time--c'est ma griffe scratch into /earth--" Nash confronts the spectre of mass extinction, of populations sliding into categories of the surplus: "kimberlite mortal sparrow nickels cans 7-Up--like Anglo- / Saxon catalogue poem formal intricacy at twist end ironic or / not--"

 

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