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The Bloody Planet by Callista Buchen


In The Bloody Planet, Callista Buchen calls out to the geographies of the solar system, considering the local and the grand, the Earth-bound and beyond. Her speakers are searchers—through far-flung examinations and pursuits of strange landscapes, they bring us face to face with what it means to be human. On Mercury, “Scars gather flesh— / fall apart. The ground writes, rewrites.” The speaker asks again and again: “What does it matter?” What matters is the gravity of place. What matters is what pulls us. In these twenty gorgeous, tensile poems, Buchen explores what connects and separates, culling from the planets a universe of language, color, work, art, even love.

Advance Praise for The Bloody Planet

In The Bloody Planet, Callista Buchen takes us on a breathtaking tour of the solar system, detailing the violent surfaces and inhospitable climates of each planet and leaving us in humble awe of our own. In these tightly crafted poems, Buchen wisely looks beyond Earth to draw our attention to Earth, issuing a bold and urgent warning for a world on the brink of its own demise: “See this, machine of humanity,” she writes. “Dust only multiplies. You are marching. You are a lion. You are / the bloody planet. You are painted red, a shrieking mouth.” Buchen’s writing is significant, vital—as gorgeous and unstoppable as the alien storms it describes. —Alyse Knorr, author of Copper Mother and Annotated Glass

At once intimate and expansive, and filled with discovery and wonder, the poems of The Bloody Planet examine a universe that is devastating, beautiful, resilient—where image, language, and stone break open, where “the ground writes, rewrites.” From Singapore to the “husk and yard of Ohio,” from Mercury to the “stylized dragonfly” of Neptune’s strata, these poems breathe strange and lovely atmospheres and cover vast landscapes, searching deep beneath their rich grounds. As I read and reread this collection, I am continually awed by the haunting geology of Buchen’s poems. —Amy Ash, author of Open Mouth of the Vase
About the Author
Callista Buchen is the author of two chapbooks, The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming October 2015), and Double-Mouthed (dancing girl press, forthcoming Winter 2016). She is the winner of DIAGRAM‘s essay contest and the Langston Hughes award, with work appearing in Harpur Palate, Fourteen Hills, Puerto del Sol, Salamander, Whiskey Island Review, and many other journals. She teaches writing at Franklin College in Indiana.

From The Bloody Planet

On Mars

Dust everywhere: specks whirling over Olympus Mons,
through Valles Marineris, the planet as a pipe organ
filled with sand grains. Imagine the dead here
as bits of dust, as old hymns. From the surface,

the sky looks like pallets of lion skins, salt still between
each hide, as if the tanner was suddenly called away.
Sand laps the yellow edge, the dead marching. Where
is the redness? Who calls these armies?

Swirl. Swirl. The flutter of fur, still bloody, a false pulse
inside storms of carbon dioxide. Red comes
only with distance. Dust cuts messages
through the Borealis basin that could be canals

or optical illusions. The core churns out of tune. Volcanoes
roar, quiet. Sand, sand, sand, the discomfort
of 5/4 time. Rocks, only for a while, can be alive.
See this, machine of humanity:

dust only multiplies. You are marching. You are a lion. You are
the bloody planet. You are painted red, a shrieking mouth.


Photo: Callista Buchen

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