A Whale is a Country

A Whale is a Country

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Author: Isabel Zapata

Publisher: Fonograf Editions (2024)

The animals that populate the poems of Isabel Zapata’s A Whale Is a Country invent us: they lead us into the forest of our own humanity. Their songs, growls, and silences speak in a language we took for lost, but now we hear it anew: in tender, crystalline, quadrupedal poems that invite us to recover our connection to the kindred lives with which we share this world.

An extinct marsupial is a ghost. A tortoise is an ancient spirit wandering an island at the end of the world. A stuffed polar bear is the modest proof of a terrible defeat. From the microscopic waters where the hardy tardigrades make their home, to the ardent imagination that forged the impossible jackalope, to the nature preserve in Woodside, California, where Koko the gorilla learned sign language, every ecosystem appears before us as a site of discovery and communion.

Zapata’s poems often delight, then unsettle; again and again, she peels back the layers of what human beings take for granted about our experiences, surroundings, and relationships with both. In the end, they urge us into a state of witness bound up with humility, outrage, devotion, and care.