Natural Causes

It’s here! You know that satisfying feeling you get when you brave the heat and wet grass to go out to the curb and discover a book-sized package when you look into the darkness of the official USPS approved mailbox? I’m always surprised when I get my newest copy of Conjunctions: after all, it only comes every six months so you can forget about it easily.

Conjunctions 64, Natural Causes: The Nature Issue.

Here is the editor’s note from Bradford Morrow:

In smog-chocked Nanjing with its vegetable vendors and on an island encircled by the pristine waters of Lake George and haunted by a doomed man’s memories, nature generates its own narratives in which humans play out their ordinary lives and, sometimes, tetra-ordinary deaths. In the ancient city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia where hyenas come to feed in the sultry night and in the snowy Alaskan wilderness whose Russian River salmon are being greedily, hedonistically overfished, nature is observed, marveled at, even as it’s being exploited and threatened—together with its hapless human “custodians”—with extinction. Nature survives as best it can while we savor and pollute it, celebrate and misuse it. And as for its misuse, humans have long been an egregiously clever tribe of misusers. If, for instance, the Department of Defense has its way, as Christine Hume notes in these pages, weather itself could one day be weaponized using “weather-modification technologies [that] might give the United States a ‘weather edge’ over adversaries.

Yet not all is apocalyptic. Nature has traditionally played a rich, central role in literature, sometimes becoming a character itself. Yes, a dead swan becomes a metaphor for a dying, violent marriage, but then springtime flora proposes rebirth, the promise of futurity. In these pages we encounter shrimp farms and spoonbills, maize husks and Austrian woods, tarantulas and eels, multitudinous winds that pollinate or desiccate—nature in all its myriad forms, right down to photons, neutrons, neutrinos, and, yes, even Godzilla, the Sasquatch, and other of nature’s fictive and folkloric monsters.

Natural Causes is less a dispatch from the Sierra Club—although concern for our environment and appreciation of its ravishing beauty and diversity are very much on the mind of these writers—than a reimagining of how nature writing can be written. Here are twenty-five engagements not only with our natural world but with the ways in which we contemplate it in art and essay.


And to whet your interest even more, here is the table of contents:

  • Karen Hays, Frothy Elegance & Loose Concupiscence
  • Ann Lauterbach, After After Nature
  • Thomas Bernhard, Eight Poems, translated by James Reidel
  • Russell Banks, Last Days Feeding Frenzy
  • Lucy Ives, Transformation Day
  • Martine Bellen, Two Poems
  • Benjamin Hale, Brother Who Comes Back Before the Next Very Big Winter
  • Evelyn Hampton, Fishmaker
  • Margaret Ross, Visiting Nanjing
  • Michael Ives, And the Bow Shall Be in the Cloud
  • Joyce Carol Oates, Big Burnt
  • Sequoia Nagamatsu, Return to Monsterland
  • Christine Hume, Ventifacts
  • Lily Tuck, The Dead Swan
  • Greg Hrbek, The Confession of Philippe Delambre
  • Thalia Field, From Experimental Animals (A Reality Fiction)
  • Diana George, Wara Wara
  • Wil Weitzel, Green Eyes of Harar
  • Meredith Stricker, Anemochore
  • Jessica Reed, Five Poems
  • Miranda Mellis, The Face Says Do Not Kill Me
  • Matthew Pitt, After the Jump
  • Noy Holland, Fire Feather Mendicant Broom
  • Sarah Mangold, From Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners
  • Matthew Baker, Proof of the Monsters
  • China Miéville, Listen the Birds (A Trailer)

If you are interested in imaginative quality contemporary writing, Conjunctions might just be the journal you are missing. Go to the web site and consider subscribing. I keep Conjunctions beside my bed so I always have something good to read when I’m not feeling sleepy.

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