Galapagos: Islas Encantadas
poems by Michelle M. Tokarczyk
Galapagos: Islas Encantadas is both a narrative and a meditation on the Galapagos Islands—their natural beauty, unique animals, and people who visit for leisure or commerce. Inspired by William Blake, this book features poems of innocence that reflect the islands’ wonder and of experience that reflect harsh realities. The accompanying photographs enable readers to visualize this extraordinary environment. A finely crafted book to be read and reread.
NATURE / Regional
ISBN: 978-1-956056-70-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Copyright 2023; Released January 2023
58 pages; 22 full-color images
Michelle M. Tokarczyk has authored two poetry books: The House I’m Running From and Bronx Migrations. Her work has also been published in numerous journals and anthologies such as the minnesota review, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Unearthed, Masque & Spectacle, Oyster River Pages, Evening Street Review, and Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience (Cherry Castle Publishing). Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. Tokarczyk is a professor emerita of English at Goucher College (Baltimore, Maryland).
“Michelle M. Tokarczyk’s Galapagos: Islas Encantadas is rich in description and imagery; the poet takes us along with her on a journey of discovery. But the journey is shadowed by her diagnosis of breast cancer, so when she writes of an iguana attacked by a hawk, that ‘Shelter, like options, a mirage,’ we know that her shelter from death—and ours—is insufficient as well. It is in the island’s dramas of survival that she finds both acceptance and a strengthened will to live. ‘The Pacific itself, precarious cradle of life—Galapagos, you have not deserted me.’ Tokarczyk’s collection offers both an environmentally sensitive exploration of the Galapagos and an emotional sounding of a woman’s inner life.”
“In poems of acute observation and stunning impact, Michelle M. Tokarczyk stands as witness to the otherworldly beauty of the Galapagos and its power to reshape the imagination. Traveling across the globe in the aftermath of radiation treatment that shrunk her world ‘to twenty city blocks / for six weeks,’ the poet’s pilgrimage brings her to a dazzling territory where ‘[s]ea lions claim the beach, / indifferent to human footprints around them,’ and iguanas, nearing sunset, ‘huddle on the mountain, curl up / kitten-like, sharing their warmth.’ Through darker stories of predation and species loss, Tokarczyk laments the human capacity for destruction, but remains open to wonder, taking cues from the patience of birders who have learned ‘to distinguish cries from calls’ and who know ‘that epiphanies / spring from the mundane.’ Galapagos: Islas Encantadas is a moving and inventive meditation on the passage of time—human and geological. Even as she communes with visionaries—Darwin, Blake, Coleridge, Yeats—Tokarczyk’s poems shine with her own luminous vision.”
“In Galapagos: Islas Encantadas, Michelle M. Tokarczyk transports readers to these islands off the coast of Ecuador both enchanted and harsh, of whale and harpoon, tortoise and blue-footed boobies, an albatross around a sailor’s neck. Of birders who learn a finch’s call and its cry, a master diver’s body found in the swell of the sea. A land where sea lions lounge on park benches and a hawk’s talons ‘knead an iguana’s cold-blooded body / into heated sand. Pound it into a meal.’ Tokarczyk’s voyage features excerpts of letters from descendants of whaling masters, adding historical depth and context. One whaler’s letter to his wife writes about his chronic bronchitis and failing health, yet he will stay at sea for another season: ‘Tell Tommy and Johnny to be good boys. / I will do something for them yet.’ Never is there a moment when Blakean innocence is not paired with one of experience. The poet’s own backstory is that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and writes in the second poem of the collection: ‘A cancer hard to treat, / harder to survive.’ Her expedition to the Galapagos Islands after treatment and a negative biopsy is her way to ‘rejoin the living.’ And Tokarczyk does so with vigor. In the poem, ‘Open Waters,’ despite growing up in a ‘land-bound family,’ she has the courage to find water’s way. ‘Let the ocean’s sun and salt / exfoliate my skin. And / most difficult, / most astonishing: / To float. / Lie back. / Let go.’”
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