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deposition | dispossession: Climate Change in the Sundarbans

deposition | dispossession: Climate Change in the Sundarbans


Marthe Reed


    2021, 112 pages

    ISBN: 9780932716910



    deposition | dispossession: Climate Change in the Sundarbans, the posthumously published work by Marthe Reed, responds to the ecological crises of the Sundarbans of south Bangladesh and India. The work “talks back” to climate denialism, questioning Reed’s own and the United States’ role in climate change and its collateral damage. Interrogative, defiant, elegiac, the writing speaks to a realm in crisis—the fragility of a landscape, its human and other-than-human inhabitants, and the Sundarbans islands and archipelagos rapidly being swallowed by rising sea levels. Under such pressures, how do the inhabitants—and we who live elsewhere on the earth—respond? Reed does so by adopting a poetic method and collage technique that draws on a diverse set of resources. The completed book-length poem fuses together personal anecdotes and collected notes ranging in origin from scientific publications, the IPCC Synthesis Report, research on native plant and animal species, to discussions of cultural figures of the region, addresses to ethics and climate change boards, and literary texts such as The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh, Travels In The Mugal Empire by François Bernier, and Schizophrene by Bhanu Kapil.


    deposition | dispossession includes an introduction by Angela Hume.




    Marthe Reed authored seven books of poetry: deposition | dispossession: Climate Change in the Sundarbans (Kelsey Street Press, 2021), Ark Hive (The Operating System, 2018), Nights Reading (Lavender Ink, 2014), Pleth (Unlikely Books, 2013) with j hastian, (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books, 2013), Gaze (Black Radish Books, 2010), and Tender Box, AWunderkammer (Lavender Ink, 2007). She also co-edited, with Linda Russo, Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing in the Anthropocene, an anthology of essays and poetry, from Wesleyan University Press (2018).


    Reed received a BA from the University of California, San Diego; an MFA from Brown University; and a PhD from the University of Western Australia. She was an assistant professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette before becoming a humanities faculty fellow at Syracuse University in New York. She was also the co-publisher and managing editor of Black Radish Books. She died on April 10, 2018.


    What we have is an interspecies deposition, for and from inhabitants of the Sundarbans tideland sea forest,” delivering a silt-level understanding of the slow violence of climate change in the entangled biotic community of a highly specialized ecotone: 200 miles of islands made or / unmade in a day,” a web of life made increasingly precarious by rising sea levels. As we wade, the ground shifts again and again with life forced toward the unpredictable loss” (of habitat, of species populations, of sustainable lifeways) that comes with colonization and its disastrous Anthropocene politics and economics. The disclosure I do not have a reliable map” is entered into the record, but Marthe Reed is a proficient and tenacious navigator of documents and the poetics of touching the far away,” to echo a phrase from Angela Humes deft introduction. An oh, how this translated world” touches. With utmost care, deposition | dispossession layers voices of the economically marginalized with mandates of a selfish global politics, ecological peril with ethical provocation, and sacred with mundane,a house built again and again.” What we have is an offering to move us beyond “common sorrow.” Study it as if your life depends on it.

    — Linda Russo


    The last time I met Marthe Reed we talked about the Sundarbans. Now here is the pink dolphin in a "confluence pool," the river that persists when "stories are forgotten." Here is a delta slipping in and out of view, the full moon glimpsed in a January fog. As Reed writes: "I do not have a reliable map, only proliferating lists, slips of papers." Without dominating, without speaking louder than the displaced communities she's lifting into presence, Reed articulates the precarity of human and animal lives "one meter above sea level." "What if I could touch/data?" she asks, sensing towards change with her fingertips, a political intelligence grounded in love and care. The gift of this book is the chance to experience these qualities again. I miss you, Marthe. It was wonderful to hear your voice again.

    —Bhanu Kapil



    "Marthe Reed deposition / disposition" by Rob McClennon


    Marthe Reed obituary in Jacket2

    Marthe Reed obituary in Harriet

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