Take a different look at our climate change crisis. Selfie presents the first general theory that links poetry and environmental thought to poetry as an environment. James Sherry leverages his decades of experience as a practitioner and publisher of avant-garde writing to raise social and environmental issues that might at first seem unrelated or insurmountable. The result is a close reading of ecological problems that are often ignored or met with despair, turning our attention to vital linkages between seemingly disparate phenomena. Sherry creates a network model of connectivity that shifts from the individual, to social, to environmental practices. He exercises his thesis along unexpected and enlightening paths that will provoke and inspire a wide range of readers.
What causes global warming and how do we solve it? The dilemma has become a partisan cliche. The onus has politically shifted to the individual consumer, obfuscating the culpability of six polluter industries responsible for creating the greenhouse gasses that cause environmental destruction. These businesses, which Sherry argues are less healthy than they once were (just consider the downward trend of their average lifespan), are irresponsibly sating the appetites of their customers, indicating how “desire causes climate change” and creating a casualty loop.
Sherry plays with proportion, using “scalar metaphor” to adjust the size of a concept in relation to its context while making the case for an applied ecopoetics. Poetry doesn’t lie inert on the page. Its metaphysical potentiality reveals untold ideological channels that can expand our ability to formulate group responses. Poetry is where unsuitable shapes fit together, become generative. Sherry acknowledges that “difference creates.” He provides the formal ingenuity that convinces us difference will yield more than chaos and discord. It’s the secret weapon we need to make sense of each other and cooperate in our shared survival.
“All states and all companies that have ever ruled functioned as oligarchies. While there are multiple forms of governance, all operate through control by a few.”
James Sherry’s The Oligarch is a modern sequel to Machiavelli’s classic, The Prince, which shows how little leadership roles and problems have changed in the last 500 years. By using a literary strategy to present the mechanisms of U.S. and world politics, the book offers a compelling view of Trump’s America and the direction of global politics and economics.
The Oligarch maps the roads to power. Over its 26 chapters, echoing the form of The Prince, it exposes the way authority is wielded throughout the world by groups who govern both nations and corporations. Examples include people and events straight from the headlines, including Trump, Clinton, Merkel, Thatcher, Xi, and Putin, along with corporate leaders from business and media. The Oligarchshows how the networks of power actually operate, disentangling the binaries sensationalized in the news.
Entangled Bank by James Sherry is a book of verse that rejects the stylistic uniformity of most poetry collections. Entangled Bank includes poems to reflect the characteristics of an ecosystem, each poem a unique tactic in an overall strategy. Using several forms of verse from lyric to doggerel, Entangled Bank shows how poetry, like the world, is composed of many measures. Each component stands by itself and yet fits together to form a mutually reinforcing group that is both narrative and making a point about how the world and literature are similarly constructed.
The title is quoted from the last paragraph of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species where the entangled bank of the river is “clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner,…” Entangled Bank is a new kind of writing using existing tactics, recycling to remake literature.
Oops! Environmental Poetics proposes that the cause of global warming is desire. We already have the technology to arrest climate change. We have the political systems to implement social transformation. But we lack the will to adopt a more sustainable future. In a linked series of essays and poems, Oops! shows how changing our perspective on the biosphere links human thought to the actions we need to survive. Oops! presents an activist poetics that is both in our interest and within our grasp.
The poems in Our Nuclear Heritage are suffused with the trace elements of multiple genres and domains of knowledge questioning atomic theory. By pulling atoms of knowledge from the disciplines of philosophy, science, anthropology, religion, and politics, Our Nuclear Heritage rebuilds at the way we look at the world. Sherry creates an alternative poetic universe, one that “is bound with autobiography and process.” Our Nuclear Heritage was the first of five books on environmental culture.
Four For is a series of poems dedicated to the poet’s young son, offering fatherly advice and poetic despair that he would be able save his child from society, the world, and genetic destiny. In “Old and New Be(e)n,” Ben Jonson tells the child that “The masters are concealers of their fate.” “Wet Behind (the ears)” reminds the infant that “the word ensures survival.” “Self-Hatred or PC Section” raises questions about the child’s cultural inheritance; there are real questions. “Jalousie, Rolling Stones Section” bemoans the weakness of bodies and hopes the baby will be healthy.
The Word I Like White Paint Considered, a chapbook with gorgeous woodcuts by Brita Bergland, breaks the thought in the line like the title’s beginning misdirects the syntax of the whole. “Tis the season to be pause / and refresh for the new / deciduous connectors / to the habit habitat”.
Popular Fiction prints the important poems of Sherry’s mid-career affair with genre writing, enjambment of multiple texts and cultures. As the review by Bernard Welt says, “…it is ultimately not the structure that matters in Sherry’s book so much as what happens when that structure passes through the mind of the reader: how an opinion is formed in the case, how a worldview is built, how words get under the skin.” In this full-length collection comprised of 17 poems ending with “Plus Thirteen,” Sherry expands the contemporary formulations of minimalism as he begins his extended poetic exploration of environmental diversity.
Converses is a letter-press experiment in the beauty of two people speaking at once. In two columns, each page displays a pair of parallel poems meant to be read by two voices in an experiment to explore the density at which a listener can hear two poems at the same time. Love, “Leveling,” Sequence, and “Musical Grammar” are addressed in the process of poems talking at each other.
In In Case, the reader investigates the case of the author in a cool caper where everyone is guilty. “But suddenly the case turned. I did not think that I might be the murderer… But then I found him. Through endless parties and discussions, one many refused to panic… All right he killed her and she killed him and he killed her and then there was a gang-style execution and that about wraps it up for all except who wants to still to know what for.”
Written mostly in 1976 & 77, Part Songs was sketched spontaneously during concerts and recordings. The music transformed into poetry through rhythms and tone ranges from Stravinsky to “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” to the group Musica Elettronica Viva. The song “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round” has been widely anthologized.