Look at This Blue (excerpt)
Lemon-wedge half-moon pops over flat Cosumnes shallowsover sweet sound, low rustle in Lodi water chortle trill night language from standingcranes, sandhills, they've been there all along, standing still knee-deep in station pools. Orion hovering eastward drawn, readied.Someone slinks past doorjamb each choke hold felled vaporizes cognizance. Here, we once knew balance, achieved it, lived it. Any one of them left to themselves if they maneuvered awayfrom agreement reached with all of the natural world. Where only one of the manynow overthrown and imbalanced by intrusion by who left ideology ofbalance for warscapes, resourcing, in a way tangled to harness everything met. In some discovery mode and taking, it never ended, still goes on and noweven rainwater for sale so harnessed for commodity, for resource in a greentime now long-over, browned in drought made by sourcing rain givers, savanna grasses,forests, sea oats in a time where everything is commodified, so takento other places now without, in this time of no ways to meander in acontinual manner, now, everything must shift, we will surely not endure, stones sigh.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, excerpts, is used by permission from Look at This Blue (Coffee House Press, 2022).
Copyright © 2022 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke was a 2021-2022 Legacy Artist Fellow (California Arts Council) and a recent George Garrett Award recipient (AWP, 2021). Other awards include a King-Chavez-Parks Awardee, Fulbright, First Jade Nurtured Sihui (China) Female International Foreign Poetry Award, U.S. Library of Congress Witter Bynner fellowship, and an American Book Award. Hedge Coke’s books include The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, Blood Run, Burn, Streaming, Look at This Blue: an assemblage poem (book length, 2022 National Book Award Finalist), as well as a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer (2014, paperback), and a play Icicles. The social media hashtag #poempromptsforthepandemic hosts hundreds of original prompts she crafted as public outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hedge Coke teaches creative writing and narrative medicine at the University of California, on Cahuilla, Serrano, and Tongva lands in Riverside (UCR). Hedge Coke came of age working fields, factories, and waters, until retraining for former fieldworkers when nearing thirty years of age, after her disabilities eventually precluded continuation. For the past thirty years, she’s worked in literary activism, intervention, and bibliotherapy/narrative medicine.
Look at This Blue https://coffeehousepress.org/products/look-at-this-blue
“Hedge Coke examines the blue of extinction, the blue of the last butterflies, the blue of arson, howls of species gone, the last note of Ishi and his people. The speaker’s blue spirals of compassion and action, flora and fauna endangered, the blue of facts, lists, documents, missionization of First Peoples propel us through the poem, commit us to zig-zagging across stanzas of lives lost. A contesting poetics of many voices, Look at This Blue is a timely and necessary book.”
—Judges’ Citation for the 2022 National Book Awards
“An impressive lyrical accounting of California’s biodiversity that also serves as a preemptive elegy for these plants, animals, and human beings, given the current climate crisis. . . . A hypnotic assembly of discordant parts. As it bears witness to the wonders of one continental coast, Look at This Blue asks us all to face our world together.”
—Diego Báez, Poetry Foundation
“Its reportage and proximity to history reminded me of Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria, of Collier Nogues’s The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground, of Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, and of Claudia Rankine’s incomparable Citizen: An American Lyric. I wouldn’t be the first to hear the voluminous and ecstatic witness of Whitman in Hedge Coke’s work, either. . . . Music is one of Hedge Coke’s great gifts. Smart, subtle, texturous.”
—Emily Vizzo, World Literature Today