Auto mechanics and millipedes, auctioneers and citrus longhorn beetles, shimmer into focus the gossamer web that connects Everything in the Universe. Amy Wright’s poetry collection calls attention to treehoppers, buck moths, deer ticks, and other invertebrate survivalists who sound across lawns and canopies, whose startling biodiversity is, as E.O. Wilson says, “all we have.”
As nations gather to discuss brown-clouded horizons, Wright offers alternatives to covering eyes and ears against eminent realities. When we open the windows, linger over a young mantis climbing toward the door knob, sit still long enough for a hawk moth to light near us, we sense the scope of this time and place we inhabit. Astounded by wonder, we act differently. We make discoveries we never could have imagined—zebra crickets, cobra lilies, love for our in-laws. We might even find it in our hearts to forgive our megalomaniac family, as seen by elders who saw us move into the neighborhood. Who hum and sing and bury us when we’re gone.
Praise for Everything in the Universe
Amy Wright’s Everything in the Universe is Whitmanesque in its celebration of every tiny thing. These poems sing the stuff that moves under the boot-soles, stopping to name each beautiful breath of the dirt from Bird-dung Mimic to Moon-headed True Bug to Cobra Lily. In Wright’s lyric poems the natural world is alive with invisible eyes; here, humans are foolish, “sounding / the collective organ / we mistake constantly as unconscious.” Reader, tread lightly. These poems buzz, sting and flood with a many-bodied blood.
“Bare lists of words,” says Emerson, “are suggestive to an imaginative and excited mind.” Amy Wright’s Everything in the Universe is a rich, lyrical life-list produced by just such a mind devoted to the abundance, oddity, and fragility of nature. Her poems are encyclopedic in their range, particular in their meticulous knowledge, and artfully powerful in their display and application of craft. Here the flower beetle, Agestrata, shows us how to “shake our pygidia,” even as “blighted chestnuts fall” and the pear farmers of Hanyuan County “inseminate flowers with paint brushes.” Wright not only gives us the language for so many distinct characteristics and inimitable behaviors, but she has the mindful conscience to push further into the economic, cultural, or political bearing of the not-only-natural. She sees how “the scorpionfly’s innocuous wagger recalls the grounded version’s caudal stinger,” but also reports that, in response to “Anthrax-laced envelopes” which “bias senate interns against indigenous Alaskans’ musk-ox-fur offerings,” “Cipro pharmaceutical stocks rise as expected.” It’s not possible for one writer to presume to give us all of nature, as Lucretius did, but Amy Wright joins the long list of splendid nature poets—Marianne Moore, A. R. Ammons, Brian Teare, Emily Wilson—whose bountiful vision proves that ecology and poetry are, if not synonyms, at least kindred species of care.
By turns playful, enraptured, & scathing, Everything in the Universe attends to the facticity of the often-overlooked insects. As she catalogues & reflects on their ecologies & aspects, Wright explores the diverse ways a body, even one encased in an exoskeleton, embodies. Everything in the Universe is a work of ecopoetic concentration & of political & psychological searching. With insight, wisdom, & imagistic clarity, it asks each insect to hold a diminutive mirror up to nature, drawing the forms & pressures of the human into a relational ethics & understanding.