This song cycle is a raw and mutating cry from within an ecological surround undergoing massive upheaval and duress
Remembering Animals chronicles the animal in all the complexity of such a categorization, revealing the ways in which bodies are marked and evaluated, used as resource, violated and occluded from history. It is a botched text—it is problematic and scarred. It hurts and registers the hurt. There is no comfort zone. These poems contort out of the marked position of human to bring an intimate awareness of our interrelational vibrancy.
Remembering Animals is Iijima at her most fearless and feral. Life comes at you fast and furious in this powerful book. Fonts, typefaces and punctuation leap about like nervous creatures made of flesh, hair and fat in a cautionary tale about the dangers of getting lost in a forest of deep forgetting. Knowing where and how to live eco nominally in the world (without dismembering it) echoes one of this masterful visualiterary creation’s pet peeves: You broke it, you bought it. Naked or fully dressed in fur, Remembering Animals smells/ tells/yells of wounds humanimals meat out. No body is spared. I picture Iijima, head coated in honey and gold leaf sharing this brilliantly illuminated shamanuscript with Cecil the lion, cradled across her lap, pieta-like. Heart felt rendering, Beuysian feel, whispering to the dead inside us. Hop, hop. Hope... be U tearful read. – Julie Patton
In the tongues of bounty and outrage, apocalypse and transmutation, commonplace horror and vanishing splendor, Brenda Iijima has written a poetry of deep attunement to the suffering we administer mutually in our subjection of other species as from the time the animal came to stand for what is human when given to atrocity. Limbs and language are torn asunder in typeset equivalents of an overwhelming; a fugue of fitful lines that link the industrialized extermination of animals for consumption to the racial holocausts and war crimes on the “road to basra road to treblinka road to the pentagon road to an internment camp in nevada, or al-nakba.” Attention gives way to fierce acoustic patterning able to calibrate from the “cacophony matrix” an exact untamable clarity of thought. This book makes anxious music of the stakes in species-war to find “the flying giraffeoid pterodactyl encephlopod or sidewinder chomping / major grass // animal in coma coma political uproar at phase state.” Is there in us the possible grammar of an animal remembering? What species will memory favor if the sound symbols survive? – Roberto Tejada
With new empathies and new telepathies, Brenda Iijima invites us to enter a somatic archive of the 21st century that incarnates a span from prehistory to post-permafrost. In the lush, angry text of Remembering Animals, page (en)joins corpus where your instinct thinks, in a biomagnified, graphic language of sharp impression, in elegant performances of internal textual memory passages repeat to insist. Never once does the abstract replace the visceral or the (flayed) viscera, as the work explores the depths of the skin-deep. Cell to landscape, micro to macro, here the spaces of biopolitics are traversed with scalar dexterity, whilst revealing, chillingly, how much of normalcy (or its maintenance) involves murder. This book takes full, earthly stock of such “human” adventures as Middle Passage and the Vietnam War, focusing, too, on ongoing formations of “white lock down.” And it makes us look, close enough to smell, at kindred phenomena of zoo and laboratory, factory farm, slaughterhouse, and market, game enclosure, poached veldt, and poisoned jungle. “One monoculture designed to mitigate the other”: somehow the solution in every toxic loop is to consume more, to feed the global circuits of our capital-sponsored extinction event. Remembering Animals powerfully scrutinizes symptomatic patterns of attachment and alibis of disaffection that allow this to occur. As Iijima draws out human cruelty’s incongruent congruity with animal predation, she also anatomizes the bestialization of both animals and humans, animals enlisted in human scripts of hatred and humans sinking into scenario after scenario of ugly, unmythic therianthropy. Man is the bitch of bitches. When you’re skeptical of standing on hind legs, let Remembering Animals permeate the blood-brain barrier. Given future temps, we all need learn to estivate. Barring that, we can use this kind of rabbit lesson. – Judith Goldman