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Asked What Has Changed

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Black ecopoet observes the changing world from a high-rise window

Award-winning poet Ed Roberson confronts the realities of an era in which the fate of humanity and the very survival of our planet are uncertain. Departing from the traditional nature poem, Roberson's work reclaims a much older tradition, drawing into poetry's orbit what the physical and human sciences reveal about the state of a changing world. These poems test how far the lyric can go as an answer to our crisis, even calling into question poetic form itself. Reflections on the natural world and moments of personal interiority are interwoven with images of urbanscapes, environmental crises, and political instabilities. These poems speak life and truth to modernity in all its complexity. Throughout, Roberson takes up the ancient spiritual concern—the ephemerality of life—and gives us a new language to process the feeling of living in a century on the brink.

Morello's Venice


startled to hear the doctor say
this would be the last time he would see it,
a person used to keeping things alive
talking terminus — even more

startled when he returned
to hear him say it wasn't there
there were terrible rains
bookings cancelled.

when late he arrived,
everything was gone.
his wife had a cold.

they bundled together in blankets.
he refilled my prescription to
restore my soul.

ISBN-13: 9780819580115

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press

Publication Date: 02-01-2022

Pages: 80

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series

ED ROBERSON (Chicago, IL) is a contemporary, award-winning poet, Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern University, and the author of To See the Earth Before the End of the World.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Ed Roberson's Asked What Has Changed answers this question with characteristically keen observations and dancing syntax. From his current vantage point, twelve stories above Lake Michigan and eight decades into an African American life, Roberson's view encompasses what is both the mark of his apartment's 'luxury' status and the 'source of Chicago's smelly tap water.' Another breathtaking contribution to his inquiry into how black aesthetics can sharpen our understanding of local and global ecosystems, this work teaches us not simply to look, but to see."—Evie Shockley, author of Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry

"Ed Roberson new book stands tall here as has his whole body of meditative, subtle poetry many years. Roberson is one of our great under-sung American poetic masters with a complex poetry of humanity, history, witness, playfully skewed syntax, ecological gnosis and a crystalline vison of evolutionary possibilities. We need this book always, and right now. Bravo."—Anne Waldman, author of Trickster Feminism

"In Asked What Has Changed, Ed Roberson sits by the window of his high-rise , knowing that "we might not be fast eno ugh/to out distance events ," and sees what was and 'wasn't here before the hurricane.' He is a witness to the terrible beauty of our irreversible changing world."—John Yau, Recipient of the 2018 Jackson Prize in Poetry

Table of Contents

Asked What Has Changed 1

A Drop of Water 3

After 7

First Person 8

The Way We Are 9

The Land 10

The Street Knows It's Changed 12

Speculation 13

Outlook 14

The Corner Unit 15

Documentation 17

Fallen Open on the Statue's Lap 18

Alley, Here We Name Them "Way" 19

Deer Scare: Answer with Missing Riddle 21

Trace 22

The Insect Ephemera 23

Morello's Venice 24

The Empty of the Bottlenecks 26

The Child in Fellini's Satyricon Bacchanal Scene 28

The Hold of Extinction 30

The Listening 31

Millimeters of Corneal Tissue 32

Light on the Threshold 34

Sand 36

Wine-dark Sea 37

The Universal Ephemeral 39

Mutable Point of Axis 40

Mutable Point of Access 41

To Those Who Would Skate the Larger Surface 42

The Old Homology 43

Eye Ear Nose and Throat 44

Eco Echo Etude 45

Loco moveri 47

Sense 49

Kingfisher 50

Swallows Are Making the Sky Crazy 52

Cascade 53

Color Change 56

Luxe 58

Luxe: coming issue 60

Once the Magnolia Has Blossomed 61

Falling Stars upon Which to Wish 63

Distant Nearness of Gravity 64

The Glorious Revolution of Bouquets 65

SurFace 66

Picture … 67

Round 68

Wave Ravine 69

Levitations into Air 71

The Dot Flashes 73

Covenant 75

Closer 76

Runoff 77

Ice Man 78

Defer to Like 79

Moon Jar, Century Unclear 81

The Times 82

Acknowledgments 85