Writer/naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of the poetry collections Once Removed, Approaching Ice, Interpretive Work, and Toward Antarctica. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, West Branch, Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, Orion and elsewhere. Winner of the Audre Lorde Prize from the Publishing Triangle, finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, her awards also include a Stegner Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Scholarship, and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. She lives on Cape Cod with her partner, works as a naturalist/guide locally as well as on expedition ships around the globe, and is Associate Professor and co-director of creative writing at Brandeis University. Follow her at www.ebradfield.com.
Publication Date: May 9, 2019
A lyric travelogue of photographs and writing by poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield, who guides on ecotour ships in Antarctica. This book sounds, challenges, documents, and queries one of the world’s most iconic wild places.
Poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield’s fourth collection documents and queries her work as a guide on ships in Antarctica, offering an incisive insider’s vision that challenges traditional tropes of The Last Continent. Inspired by haibun, a form the 17th-century poet Bashō invented to chronicle his journeys in remote Japan, Bradfield uses photographs, compressed prose, and short poems to examine our relationships to remoteness, discovery, expertise, awe, labor, temporary societies, tourism’s service economy, and “pure” landscapes. Antarctica was the focus of Bradfield’s Approaching Ice, written before she had set foot on the continent; now Toward Antarctica furthers her investigation with boots on the ground. A complicated love letter, Toward Antarctica offers a unique view of one of the world’s most iconic wild places.
“Modern expedition ships sail south to Antarctica every year, carrying continent-baggers and bucket-listers who drink a toast to Shackleton, pat themselves on the back and heroically claim, ‘We made it!’ It takes a poet, and a darn good one, “to at once be there and to not even come close.” This is Elizabeth Bradfield writing to the truth in what she calls, “crepuscular moments of poetry . . . Here on this unbridled ocean. Here on this world unto itself.” Having been to Antarctica many times, and studied its literature, I found this book an artful standout from the crowd, one garnished with reflection and rust, humor and humility, sincerity, and respect.”—Kim Heacox, author of Antarctica: The Last Continent, Jimmy Bluefeather, and The Only Kayak
Publication Date: March 1, 2008
Natural history, work, queerness, and family collide in Interpretive Work. When they do, a deep stubborn will emerges, a belief in the unexpected beauty of the world “flaws and all. The poems of this collection foreground the role of the viewer” the interpreter “smudging self across what’s seen.”
From neighborhood kids cussing in the cul-de-sac to marbled murrelets calling in Southeast Alaska, the poems of this book reach toward a moment where one finds “this unsettlement, / this beauty applauded at last.”
Bradfield delivers her bruised truths through a quiet honesty that stands in ardent defense of mainstream normative expectations. A male singer has a woman’s high, sweet voice, redefining beauty. A female deer grows antlers. A woman chooses to be child-free without regret. As a whole, these poems furtively suggest that the tourist on the sunset cruise ship misinterprets the cravings of humpback whales in the same way Bradfield’s family, neighbors and bureaucratic officials misunderstand love, sexuality and gender.
Interpretive Work was awarded the 2009 Audre Lorde Award from the Publishing Triangle.