Praise for Swerve
“In the world we are in now, and the harrowing world to come, we need poems as guides, and as resistance to the forces that would corrupt and diminish us. For some time now, Ellery Akers has been crafting these necessary poems. Swerve is a book that confronts the primary issues of the 21st century with insight and candor, along with hope and courage.”
—Joseph Stroud, author of Everything That Rises and Of This World: New and Selected Poems
“True and brave… I have just discovered a remarkable book.”
––Kathleen Dean Moore, environmental activist and author of Piano Tide and Wild Comfort
Previous Praise for Ellery Akers
“Ellery Akers has the golden gift, with good profit to literature.”
—The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Akers finds moments of utter mystery and terrifying beauty in the least expected and commonplace.”
“With the passion and determination of an abuse survivor, the exploring mind of a naturalist, and the soul energy of a language-loving poet, Akers gives us not one truth, but layer on layer of overlapping truths….”
“There is a kind of radiance in this book—earthy radiance—body light.”
—Women’s Review of Books
“Practicing the Truth is one of those rare books one can't stop reading. It's that good, that compelling.”
—Dorianne Laux, about Practicing the Truth
“ …An intelligent and deeply political set of poems.” –-KIrkus Reviews
Akers, a poet of the California coast, writes of life on the brink of ecological collapse in her newest collection.
This short book of poetry is centered on a particular verb—“swerve,” a sudden change in direction that, Akers writes, smells “astringent, like the wind off the sea.” The poet mourns an unexpected loss—“When I was born I thought I’d be taken from the earth / I didn’t think the earth would be taken from me.” It’s a loss that’s been legislated by incompetent presidents, greedy senators, and other powerful people who refuse to prevent it, her poems assert. She approaches her grief like a naturalist, carefully naming again and again what her speakers long to conserve: “scud,” “bracken,” “clubmoss,” “cormorant.” And more: “I call the shapes of leaves: spatulate, cordate, pinnate, lanceolate.” Further, Akers knows intimately what threatens the beauty that her speakers hope to protect: “I know the names of the machines that cut down the forest: / feller buncher, shovel logger, tower yarder, stroke delimber, skidder.” Knowing and naming all parts of a moral universe is part of Akers’ obsessive, intelligent effort to trace the elemental origins of the world. Money is not money but “green rectangles made from trees,” longing “for the forest it came from.” Overall, these poems aren’t as brilliant as Akers’ earlier work, but although they’re world-weary, they’re not without hope; they also include records of the small, successful acts that resist environmental decline: “I remember the moment when a river that used to catch fire / turned from flammable to swimmable.” Akers dedicates the last parts of the book to organized resistance and the possibility of swerving back from disaster. Aside from the clumsy bluntness of the title, “#MeToo: Women in Touch with Their Anger” is an impressive and moving reinterpretation of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, praising defiance rather than compliance. Resistance is personal for these women who protect themselves and the Earth from abusive people.
An intelligent and deeply political set of poems.