New Book News: Being Many Seeds by Marilyn McCabe
I'm doing something a bit different with this feature this month. I had the pleasure of seeing a proof of the recently-published Grayson Books 2020 Chapbook Contest winning submission, Being Many Seeds by Marilyn McCabe. If you are a regular reader, you may remember that this chapbook was listed in my New Book News column of May 27 (you can read that column HERE). McCabe sent it to me as an email attachment last month. I left the proof sitting in my email and finally took a look last week.
You know how sometimes you set aside things to read and the moment you finally decide to read them turns out to be exactly the right time? That's how I felt about Being Many Seeds. Between the pandemic everywhere and the riots that recently rippled forth from my small part of the world, life has felt as if we are living atop a widening chasm down which we might all topple at any moment. Change is undeniable; the human species has made such a mess of everything. When I cracked open these pages (well, scrolled them on my computer screen anyway), I recognized some of what I'd been struggling with in McCabe's explorations of our connections to this planet. A companion essay, running along the bottom of each page, considers the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, philosopher, and paleontologist (more about him HERE). Teilhard de Chardin considered how human beings evolve, how we become better.
I began reading Being Many Seeds without re-reading the listing McCabe sent to me. I had forgotten that these poems evolve to erasures of the original piece, and then to an erasure of the erasure. The evolution of her work is fascinating as McCabe strips words away to bring a distilled essence of each poem, each idea. I nodded my head at the line, on page 16, "I stomp around in world as god." Oh, how we all do that. How we've all done that, claimed this planet as something to mold in our own flawed image rather than a living place to co-exist within. And the discussion of Teilhard de Chardin's ideas about hope for human beings evolves, too; evolution is something that favors the cooperative.
And then I came to the question that simply exploded in my head on page 18: "....what if....we humankind, like a tail, like an extra toe, are what becomes edited out?"
I could feel my own sharp inhale as I read those words. This is exactly what I've been wondering lately, without being able to put it into any coherent sentence. This feeling that there is no guarantee we will go on, heal all of this, and figure out how to survive in peace was right there in print in front of me. Can we possibly distill ourselves to what matters most? Can we edit out the worst of ourselves or are we only becoming worse, with our better selves gasping for one final breath?
McCabe doesn't leave us there, however. She takes the reader a little bit further, scatters the seeds of hope that I'm going to insist you find and nurture for yourself.
In the meantime, I did a little poking around on McCabe's website (https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com) and found this video on Vimeo that uses some of the work from Being Many Seeds: https://vimeo.com/338991040. This will give you a taste of what McCabe's chapbook offers.
Being Many Seeds is perfect for this moment in time.
To purchase a copy of Being Many Seeds by Marilyn McCabe, please visit Grayson Books HERE.