This slim white book, Excerpts from a Natural History,
contains 2 introductions and 53 poems,
on 80gsm acid-free paper,
hand bound by Atuanui Press, Mangatangi, New Zealand
and published by Titus Books in 2015.
Along with page 9’s sub-title, the intoductions make clear
that the collection contained within the book’s 67 pages
are the field notes submitted by a poet-researcher
working for the Natural History project,
now in its 392nd year.
The project’s aim is to record all that is true –
“a series of taxonomies… structures, operations,
functions, situations, relationships of every occurence” –
with the goal of one day being able to, given all the facts, properly
speculate and hypothesise (as philosophers tend to do).
Life leaning towards the mostly mundane, the poem topics
include titles such as “Concerning Buttons for Sale
at the Ryde Hospice Shop on the Isle of Wight”.
But the poet’s creative flare cannot help but burst through,
much to the annoyance of their supervisor, comparatively nonpoetic.
First-name and gender undisclosed, the poet and supervisors’
changing relationship is made evident by the supervisor’s notes
at the side of every poem save only two:
“Concerning the Bridport Railway Stations (disused)”, and
“Concerning Los Angeles: Rush Hour on the 405.”
As their relationship progresses, the poet cannot help but show
their feelings inappropriately, expressed as flowing words
unfitting for the project (after all, they are a poet).
The word “history” refers to a record or narrative of past events,
thereby also implying that something that once was, is now over.
Speaking entirely subjectively, and thus describing a relation
between myself and this book, of which the cover image
exhibits two types of basil and the African marigold:
I much enjoyed reading it, as I have enjoyed all the poems
written by the author, the one (but not only) Holly Painter.