ISBN-10: 1571315179
ISBN-13: 9781571315175
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 02/09/2021
Dimensions: 8.30" L, 5.50" W, 0.50" H

Self-Portrait with Cephalopod


Price: $16.00


A 2022 Washington State Book Award finalist

Environmental collapse. The betrayals and alliances of the animal world. A father who works in a timber mill. The celebrities in our feeds, the stories we tell ourselves. Loss, never-ending loss. Self-Portrait with Cephalopod–selected by francine j. harris as winner of the Jake Adam York Prize–is an account of being a girl, and then a woman, in the world; of being a living creature on a doomed planet; of being someone who aspires to do better but is torn between attention and distraction.

Here, Kathryn Smith offers observations and anxieties, prophecies and prayers, darkness and light–but never false hope. Instead, she incises our vanities and our hypocrisies, “the bloody hand holding back / the skin,” revealing “the world’s inner workings, / rubbery and caught between the teeth.” These are the poems of someone who feels her and our failings in the viscera, in the bones, and who bears witness to that pain on the page.

Self-Portrait with Cephalopod is an urgent and necessary collection about living in this precarious moment, meditative and resolutely unsentimental.

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Self-Portrait with Cephalopod ruminates on the contradictions of existing in a deteriorating world: making sense of the minutiae and drama of our daily lives while forever aware of the underlying existential anxiety that can't be fully ignored. It's about nature and loss, passion and hypocrisy, and the balance of pragmatism and faith. –Buzzfeed

Smith's craft subverts expectations, asking readers to perceive from new angles . . . There is much to celebrate in this complex, apocalyptic, wonderful book. Among unanswerable questions are moments of pure lyricism . . . The poems here, their language, stick like spiked seed pods. –The Arkansas International

Brimming with both anxiety and hope, Kathryn Smith's Jake Adam York Prize-winning poetry collection, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, captures what it's like to live during a time of accelerated climate change . . . Smith's vivid and deeply moving poetry raises questions about how to live ethically and with optimism in the face of so much loss. –Literary Hub

Playful and smart: Smith shows those traits can synthesize into memorable poems. –The Millions

The poems here don't shy away from a sense of doom, but neither do they succumb to it; they cling to a love that propels us forward, no matter how imperfectly. They are observational and emotional at once, and a welcome addition to the ever-growing canon of art that processes climate change grief. –Buzzfeed, Brilliant Books That Explore Our Relationship with Nature

Smith deftly balances despair with optimism, while tracking the larger changes of the planet and the smaller changes within ourselves. –Chicago Review of Books

In the midst of deaths both large and small, human and invertebrate, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod seeks connection between all parts of the natural world, no matter how fragile. –Full Stop

The works in [Self-Portrait with Cephalopod] veer from intense and disturbing to laugh-out-loud hilarious, as Smith addresses everything from environmental disasters and the natural world to personal loss and celebrity culture as reflected by the media . . . The makes Cephalopod all the more noteworthy, as its works remain engaging beginning to end, through all that 'gross stuff' and sunshine, fear and hope, captured in its pages. –The Inlander, Spokane, WA

"Self-Portrait with Cephalopod is lush and obsessed and frantic and deathy. At times, there is a pre-apocalyptic reverence and reflection in this collection that feels almost monastic. Beautiful and timely work."–francine j. harris

"Kathryn Smith's astonishing new collection, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, is rife with deep intelligence, heart, and wit. Her engagement with the natural world comes through screens with news full of tragedies and celebrities, and asks why God is so conspicuously absent in the Anthropocene. Smith constantly surprises in her lyric leaps, weaving together scientific fact, keen observation, and a will for both physical and emotional survival. Despite how hopeless the headlines and environment can be, these poems continue to stun with their urgency and pathos. More than that, these poems are companions, ones to think and feel alongside while reading, and then carry within you. This book is timely and timeless, one that reminds us that those who love the world are–even if they want to be sometimes–never alone."–Traci Brimhall

"I love the way science and faith exist in a symbiosis in these poems. Refreshingly, frustration, indignation, and compassion are also held in that same spiritual vision. As I read Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, I felt all of the little fists in my mind and spirit unclenching, opening to the ebb and flow of Kat Smith's exquisite oceanic lyricism." –Kathryn Nuernberger

"In the age of social media and news cycles, even emotions can feel as ubiquitous, over-produced, and disposable as the plastic straws filling our oceans. But Kathryn Smith's newest collection is a truly heart-crafted work, made from an aching need to be present in the chaos. Self-Portrait with Cephalopod confronts the global tragedy of the human role in the Anthropocene, and then dissects it to find out what's inside, taking the self, the world, and, of course, the very depths of the oceans apart not layer by layer but with a scalpel that butterflies it open all at once. Though she tells us 'I know what I know / changes nothing, ' I felt changed after reading this book."–Keetje Kuipers

Praise for Book of Exodus

"'Dreaming is its own wilderness, ' writes Kathryn Smith in Book of Exodus, and with what wondrous linguistic and imagistic agility she beckons me into that wilderness. It is one she makes both intimate and real. These poems allow entry, or re-entry, to primal selves, we who once roamed a forest, ate of its bounty, and fought its beasts. And yes, in the best sense, the book also seems–as a marvelous abecedarian poem's title proclaims–a 'Rehearsal for the Apocalypse.'"–Nance Van Winckel

"The speaker of these poems creates journeys where to be lost is to be accompanied by the word, by the interior fires and holiness of wilderness, by creature and dream. The poems' language, both spare and sumptuous, aims for singleness of being and transformation. Kathryn Smith's first collection melds the field's briar and the ash of insubstantiality in her unsparing witnessing of experience and faith, this poet's discipline and journey."–Laurie Lamon

"In these crisp, fiercely honest poems, Kathryn Smith asserts again and again that the spiritual path is one of unrelenting existential struggle, regardless of the strength or foundation of one's belief, that the task is to forge one's own purely individual relationship with the ineffable. Behind each structure and lyrical moment, each little fractured song-like dance at the edges of scripture, lies a metapoetic interrogation of language itself. The book is a truly distinctive first flight."–Christopher Howell

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ISBN-10: 1571315179
ISBN-13: 9781571315175
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 02/09/2021
Dimensions: 8.30" L, 5.50" W, 0.50" H
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