Truro’s Elizabeth Bradfield is a hemispheric woman. A scientist and poet, she relies on both hemispheres of her brain to study and respond to the world. Her work as a naturalist takes her to Antarctica (most decidedly the Southern Hemisphere), but her writing blends the distant world with what’s close to home, creating depth and nuance by layering the universal with the highly personal. Her other territories—photography and teaching—are complements, too. One involves creation while the other supports the creativity of others. And as founder and editor-in-chief of Broadsided Press, she publishes monthly visual-literary collaborations that anyone can download and print for free: yet another venture that involves receiving and giving, creation and collaboration. Her poem “Historic Numbers of Right Whales Skim Feeding off Cape Cod”, reprinted here from her collection Once Removed (Persea Books, 2015), is a fine example of her worlds layered. Fresh, evocative language. And a beautifully complicated mind.
— Lauren Wolk
“Historic Numbers of Right Whales Skim Feeding off Cape Cod”
By Elizabeth Bradfield
Who would expect their appetite
would come to seem ominous?
But now I know
they are voids of hunger. They plough
a field of plankton, turn,
plough again. They strip the water
like loggers on a clearcut.
The bay this spring seemed overrun
by stern, enormous beetles:
black, vaguely military, inexorable.
Poor plankton, adrift
in flailing clouds, poor blushing copepods
with delicate antennae, watermelon scent —
you don’t stand a chance.
Week after week, right whales
eat the bay down
until they have to leave it.
Time and proximity have made them
monsters. This must be how it was before.
From Once Removed by Elizabeth Bradfield. Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Bradfield. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc. (New York)