Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to Draw a Rhinoceros

How to Draw A Rhinoceros / Kate Sutherland
Toronto: BookThug, c2016.
120 p.

This is a debut collection by a law professor and poet, who also happens to be an acquaintance of mine. But that had no bearing on the fact that I adored this book of poetry.

I enjoyed it because of its cleverness, creative wordplay, and focus on science and on a specific theme - obviously the rhinoceros. I've made no secret of my love of the combination of science & poetry - from Alice Major to Madhur Anand, I've always enjoyed this combo.

This book takes the natural sciences as its subject. Sutherland examines the rhino from many angles; historical (the first touring rhino); artistic (Durer's rhinoceros sketches); biographical (sketches of some of the best known zoo owners/beast collectors in history); whimsical (Clara the rhino aboard ship, in law school, in space and more).

Each one has a different light to shed on the place that the rhinoceros has played in human history and culture. There are even some "found poems", something I always find intriguing - these ones are drawn from varied sources, from a 19th C. circus poster, from government reports of poaching, from Theodore Roosevelt & Ernest Hemingway's hunting narratives, as some examples.

The thematic thread - a rhinoceros - holds all of these witty poems together. The facets of the collection provide differing views of natural history and human interference in animal life, and hint of much more to be explored. Thankfully there are some notes on the writing of the poems at the end that may give interested readers a bit more to search out, now that the never-before-considered topic of the rhinoceros seems so fascinating. 

If you have any interest in history, natural or otherwise, and welcome an encounter with new poets and unexpected obsessions, I recommend finding a copy of this satisfyingly enjoyable read.

8 comments:

  1. The Rhinoceros in Art from Durer to Stubbs is one of the most improbably-titled and most enjoyable art books I've come across.

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    1. Well, it is a pretty great title!

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  2. Melwyk, this does sound like a fascinating,intelligent collection of poetry. I have a lot to learn about rhinoceroses! Excellent review, as usual. (By the way, it was through Kate's book blog that I "met" you. Her blog was one of the first book blogs I encountered when I started blogging. I've reviewed some of her short fiction.)

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    1. That's very cool! Yes, Kate is a person of wide interests indeed :)

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  3. I really enjoyed Kate's short story collection and I bought a copy of this to support her. I just haven't got around to it yet. Glad you liked it!

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    1. I thought it was clever and accessible and fun -- while being quite sciencey, which of course I love!

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  4. What a cool idea for a book. I'll have to look for it.

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    1. It is a cool idea, and I thought she was able to carry through the theme without forcing anything to fit -- there was lots to work with, and it had a natural flow.

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