Ruth Padel’s new collection of poems, The Mara Crossing, offers a unique perspective on migration and immigration
Why do species migrate and why do we move home? Starting with the first living cell to appear on earth and the earliest spread of plants and microbes across the globe, Padel’s poems turn to the seasonal migrations of birds and beasts. There are sharply drawn portraits of animals – storm petrels, jellyfish, humpback whales and lemurs – as well as the human immigrants who studied them, such as the ornithologist John James Audubon – and the epic migration of wildebeest and zebra from Kenya to Tanzania; culminating in the crossing of the crocodile-infested Mara River.
But the history of civilization is also the story of migration. From early hominids out of Africa and the founding of Rome by refugees from Troy, to diasporas of the modern world and attempts to colonize the moon, The Mara Crossing explores the ways in which we are all ‘from somewhere else’. Padel’s poems, interwoven with illuminating prose passages, investigate what we learn from animals, how our migrations resemble theirs, and how both animal and human journeys are now affected by the ways in which we have changed, and are changing, our shared planet.
Here is a magnificent tapestry of life from the acclaimed author of Darwin: A Life in Poems.
“A vertiginous compendium, a prodigy, a book of wonders: it is Montaigne’s and Darwin’s 21st-century child”
“A broad-ranging meditation on all things migratory...This is a book of raw interfaces and unnerving encounters. Magnificent poems... a triumph of imagistic ingenuity”
“(A) thoughtful and often quite magical mix of prose and poetry…What is just as fascinating as Padel’s central theme is the insight that she also gives us into poetry, or rather, into the creation of a poem.”
Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday
“The Mara Crossing is a major meditation on migration. The prose is crystalline, the poems full of the wonderful material stuff of life. It's a poet's book to the core, a passionate exploration of her subject, proving that pressures on cells, bodies, creatures (human and other), and on the planet itself, are fit and essential matter for poetry”
“A glorious fabric, weaving lyricism and hard facts, poetic insight and scientific detail unwinding from the multitudinous threads of geographical migration. A beautiful, far-ranging book about physical journeys and all they might mean to humans and animals alike”
“In this sweeping an unconventional book about migration, Padels commendably calls for compassion and open borders. Her poems and essays are a lyrical tribute to the instincts and whims that catalyse movement, and the trials and beauties that come with motion... there are wonders of nature in this collection which will give pause to sensitive readers”
“In an original, wonderfully imaginative series of reflections, moving between essayistic insights, condensed metaphors of poetry, mysteries of microbiology and animal or human journeys, Ruth Padel takes migration as her subject and the whole earth as her province. A thrilling, poignant, richly illuminating investigation of the energies which create life and drive history”
“Who would have thought that a poet would write about one of the most fascinating aspects of behavioural biology and human striving? A remarkable, beautifully constructed book, interleaving science and history, clear prose and evocative poems”
Professor Patrick Bateson, President of the Zoological Society of London
“This book is an extraordinary mixture of poetry, prose, fact and fantasy.”
Kate Saunders, Saga Magazine
“An engrossing meditation on the theme of migration…reads like a collaboration between Dorothy Wordsworth and Darwin.”
Mark Sanderson, Sunday Telegraph
“Lyrical in its prose”
Boyd Tonkin, Independent