A National Poetry Series winner, selected and with a foreword by Kwame Dawes.

A 5-part series of interwoven poems from a dying parent to her daughter, examining the human capacity for grief, culpability, and love, asking: do we as a species deserve to survive?

Product Code: 5902
ISBN: 9780807007594
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 112
Published Date: 10/05/2021
Availability:In stock
Price: $16.00

Dear Specimen opens with both its speaker and her planet in peril. In “Speak to Me,” she puzzles over a millipede, as if the blue rune of its body could help her understand her impending death and the crisis her species has created. Throughout the collection, poems addressed to specimens echo the speaker’s concern and amplify her wonderment. A catalog of our climate transgressions, Dear Specimen’s final poem foretells a future in which climate refugees overrun one of our planet’s last habitable places.

The collection’s lifeblood is a series of poems in which the speaker and her daughter express their concern for, and devotion to, one another. The daughter’s questions mirror the ones her mother asks of specimens: what are we meant to do with so much hazard and wonder? When the speaker hints at the climate crisis in a bedtime story she tells her grandson, we, too, feel the peril he may face.

Juxtaposing a profound sense of intimacy with the vastness of geological time, the collection offers a climate-conscious critique of the human species - our search for meaning and intimacy, our capacity for greed and destruction. Dear Specimen is an extended love letter and dire warning, not only to the daughter its speaker leaves behind but to all of us.

About the Series
Established in 1978, the National Poetry Series is a literary awards program which sponsors the publication of five books of poetry each year. The manuscripts, solicited through an annual Open Competition, are selected by poets of national stature and published by a distinguished group of trade, university, and small presses.

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Foreword by Kwame Dawes


A Homo Sapiens on the Brink of Extinction Speaks to the Fossil Mosasaurus
Speak to Me
After a Miscarriage, My Daughter Asks
Aerial View
Least Tern
Seamless Bead
Embryonic Daughter
Fragile Eagle


Mounting the Dove Box
Resin Specimen
Dark Season
Dusky and Zigzag Salamanders
The Seer
After My Diagnosis, Sarah Asks
Water Scorpion, Magnified 40x
Waterfowl, Dovekie


Celestial Mechanics
American Beaver
After His Nightmare, Sarah Asks
Tipping Point
Errant Eagle
Put Bones in Pit When Finished
If Oil Rigs Raise You Like Lazarus from the Shale of the Permian Basin


Abnormal Echo
Before the Bonfire
Bridge Constructs in Modern Technology
Cardinal, You Would Not Believe
A Pastoral Topography
Riddles of Flock & Bone
Homo Sapiens
In the End, Sarah Asks
Shanidar, First Flower People


The Smell of Almost Rain
Sea Lily
At the Museum of Permian Extinctions
American Copperhead
After My Burial, Sarah Asks
Dear Specimen
Day Shift/Night Shift
At the Sea Floor Exploration Exhibit, Sarah Asks
Epilogue: To a Trilobite


"Herbert writes movingly about a world of extinction, using the lenses of fossils and storytelling to create an involving worldview. . . . The writer’s gift for deep seeing elevates even the smallest of details. . . . In mostly short poems, Herbert describes a vibrant yet highly vulnerable world. . . . She breathes life into fossils, skeletons, and nature today, even our world in its current damaged state. A unique and thrilling collection that pulses with wonder; not to be missed.” - Library Journal

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