A Review of From the Extinct Volcano, a Bird of Paradise
Carter Revard’s newest book, From the Extinct Volcano, a Bird of Paradise (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014), is yet another powerful collection from the Osage writer. Described as “Osage posthumanism,” Revard’s collection blends genres, combining poetry, science, history, and creative non-fiction in refreshing and provocative ways. Volcano is reminiscent of N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain in its use of different structural forms to present the work as a whole rather than individualizing and compartmentalizing each poem or section.
One thing that Revard has always done well in his poetry is using the combination of old and new, the past and the present. Many of the poems in Volcano are a conversation between the past and the present with neither overtaking the other. However, the past and the traditions of the Osage tribe clearly influence the present. The poems are not just individual conversations, either. In reading the collection as whole, it is apparent that some poems are responses to others. For example, “Earth and Diamonds” transitions wonderfully into “Geode,” and the two should be read as part of a whole rather than on their own. This is not to say that any one of these pieces could not be enjoyed by itself, of course, but I believe that reading them all as one large work rather than breaking them up individually is the only way to truly appreciate what Revard does in this collection.
In my opinion, the best thing about Volcano is its ability to reach a wide variety of audiences. While people who primarily read poetry should certainly pick up this book, it also appeals to those interested in Native American studies, Posthumanist studies, history, and science. There is truly a little bit of everything in this book, and Revard seamlessly blends all of these genres, and more, to make Volcano a book that should have a place on everyone’s bookshelf.
Volcano is not a book that should be read quickly. In the multiple readings I’ve done to prepare this review, I’ve always caught something I didn’t see during any of the previous readings. Many collections of poetry require a close reading, but Volcano demands it. There is no way that, as a reader, you could catch everything Revard does and presents in one quick read-through. Normally, I would consider the requirement of reading upon reading upon reading to be tedious, but Volcano rewards readers who take their time to slowly travel through its pages multiple times. Some books are about the destination, but Carter Revard’s From the Extinct Volcano, a Bird of Paradise is all about the journey.
Nicholas Brush is a student at Cameron University where he is studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing. His poetry has been published in The Gold Mine and Cuento Magazine, and his book reviews have been featured in The Oklahoma Review and Cybersoleil. He has presented his work at the Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, and he has received numerous awards and recognition for his poetry. Nicholas served over nine years in the Army, deploying twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.