Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota: Poems

by Amelia Gorman

* I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review *

I have enjoyed every book I have read from Interstellar Flight Press, and this one was no exception. I will probably end up buying a print copy because the vintage illustrations of the invasive species were lovely, but I feel a screen doesn’t do them justice.

I love conceptual poetry collections, eco-horror (or eco-dystopia, your choice), and speculative poetry, so this book hit every high note for me. It also doesn’t hurt that I have published a chapbook of poems whose title includes “A Field Guide To…”, so how could I not feel drawn to this book? Though I hail from Florida and now live on the West Coast, I think that if you love nature, the outdoors, and flora/fauna, then you would appreciate this book. Every state has its own invasive species, so although these are specific to Minnesota, the poems are relatable.

I enjoyed this poet’s quiet, evocative language and poem structure. I appreciated these poems on a level of craftsmanship, as well as emotional and lyrical connection. The mythology was elegantly implemented in the work, and the plunge into surreal imagery was like a mash-up of Jeff VanderMeer & David Lynch. (That means I loved it.) I also liked the near-future setting, which gives the collection a sense of urgency, because it’s a bleak future that’s all-too-possible unless we take steps to correct our course. There is meaning and message in these poems, as well as beauty and depth.

The best part of this book was, for me, a surprise. The afterword, which is an essay in itself, contextualized the creation of these poems and their significance to the author. I would have loved a few blurbs or appendices about how the species came to be invasive, but it wasn’t an obstacle to my enjoyment of the book or a requisite to understanding them.

However, I would have loved the afterword to be the introduction to the poems, because I think that context for their genesis and the author’s personal connection to these poems will deepen a reader’s appreciation for them. I worry that readers may gloss over the afterword, and that would be a shame, because it deepened my connection to the poems.

This collection reminded me to take a walk, enjoy the trees, and flowers, and sun, and not to take any of it for granted. That, in itself, makes this book of poetry invaluable.