W.J. Herbert

Cindy Seip

W.J. Herbert’s work was selected for inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2017. Her poetry, fiction, and reviews appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, Hudson Review, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. In her debut collection Dear Specimen: Poems (Beacon Press), a five-part series of interwoven poems from a dying parent to her daughter, Herbert examines the human capacity for grief, culpability, and love, while asking: “Do we as a species deserve to survive?” Dear Specimen opens with both its speaker and her planet in peril. In “Speak to Me,” she puzzles over a millipede, as if its body could help her understand her impending death and the crisis her species has created. Throughout, poems addressed to specimens echo the speaker’s concern and amplify her wonderment. A catalog of our climate transgressions, the collection’s final poem foretells a future in which climate refugees overrun one of our planet’s last habitable places. Juxtaposing a profound sense of intimacy with the vastness of geological time, the collection offers a climate-conscious critique of the human species – our search for meaning and intimacy, our capacity for greed and destruction. This is an extended love letter and a dire warning, not only to the daughter its speaker leaves behind, but to all of us.