ABOUT THE POEMS One of the most ambitious and versatile of contemporary poets, Ruth Padel has made for herself a reputation as someone who both has something important to say and a new language with which to say it. A descendant of Charles Darwin (about whom she has written a book, Darwin: A Life in Poems), she brings the combined force of both art and science to her craft. Her verse is sharp with the poet’s characteristic sense of the transience of apparently durable things (as in the bookcase of “Garlands” and the world it stands for) and of unexpected connections between apparently disparate things.
But these poems reveal not just art’s creation of new truths, but also science’s unpoetic skepticism about lies carefully constructed to resemble truths (as with the wildlife program in “Meeting the Lemming”, which is ruthlessly dismembered in a few stanzas of savage description). Padel’s tensile lines, leaps of thought, and mastery of her craft make these poems not just readable but endlessly re-readable—and always somehow new even when well-known.
Meeting the Lemming
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