Fog and Smoke
by Katie Peterson
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Pub Date 02 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024
Peterson unfurls the quotidian fabric of our lives, patterned with the difficulties of language and this moment.
Confusion frames the human predicament. In Katie Peterson’s Fog and Smoke, confusion is, literally, our climate. Writing to and from the California landscape, Peterson sees fog and smoke as literal—one a habitual, natural weather event, the other an increasingly common aftereffect of the West’s drought-caused fires. But they are also metaphysical. Fog and smoke reflect the true conditions (and frustrations) of our ability to perceive and to connect. Peterson writes, “I’ve been speaking about it at a distance. / Now I want to talk about its thickness. / A person could get killed in here.”
The collection moves through three sections: First, the poet follows her local fog’s cyclical journey of descent and dispersion. Second, in a sort of pastoral interlude, she travels widely, almost erratically, to the California desert, the greater world, and ancient history. Finally, she descends into the enclosed space of the household, and the increased confinement and intimacy of raising a child during the pandemic. Peterson unfolds the small moments that make up our lives and reveals the truths contained within them, and her poems capture the lyricism of our daily rhythms—the interruptions, dialogues, and epiphanies.
A Note From the Publisher
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 19 members
Katie Peterson's Fog and Smoke is very much a collection of its time as it explores life within a pandemic and a climate crisis. No doubt its relevancy will remain as we navigate our lives in societies irrevocably changed by Covid-19 and in a world increasingly showing signs of abnormal and rapid climate change.
The first section, Fog, reflects upon the isolation felt during the pandemic and how this impacted us, often far deeper than we would care to admit. While the detachment and fragmentary nature of this poem deliberately mirrors how many of us felt, I found it difficult to connect with it as a result. But again, perhaps that is the very point, it just didn't read as well as Peterson's later poems in this collection because as Peterson then writes about parenthood, birth and death, and then crisis, the human at the centre of it all became palpably relatable.
In these later poems, Peterson's style is steeped in line-level brilliance, romantic narrative and this constant sense of time being far too fleeting. I felt the ache, the desire for everything to slow down, despite just coming out of a time where things came to a standstill. This juxtaposition is caught in Peterson's work, masterfully. And so, despite my difficulties with the opening part, I can appreciate Peterson's intentions and dedication to poetic craft.
A graceful and vivid collection of poems addressing climate change, climate grief and environmental crisis. I am so glad this book will soon be out in the world--urgent and necessary reading.
I really enjoyed this short collection. Katie Peterson's writing is evocative and compelling. The second half of the book, focused on wildfires and living with climate change; I found these poems particularly poignant.
Great blend of the anxieties and wonders of parenthood against the natural disaster of our world unraveling! Definitely worth your time when it comes out early next year.
Peterson may as well have been wielding a sledgehammer. That's how affected I was by some of her lyrical poetry...
Her stream-of-consciousness style had me gripping the edge of every seat, windowsill, and bed I sat on. The moments of life that were highlighted felt like reading a personal journal. Wherein Peterson finds something that moves her and then proceeds to move us with it.
Particularly, her third movement or chapter where she begins to delve into familial relationships via American cultural understanding- whether that be through immigration or fire maps. The visceral reaction that my body had to Stars, Days, Words, and Argument with a Child left me breathless. I understand as a mother to my own this awe of what you helped to create and the feeling of tug-a-war over autonomy.
This is a work of a master wordsmith and I recommend it to anyone willing to look within their own stream of consciousness for that shred of humanity you may have seem to have lost within these last few years.
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