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The Bloody Planet

Publication Date: October 2015


In The Bloody Planet, Callista Buchen calls out to the geographies of the solar system, considering the local and the grand, the Earth-bound and beyond.

Her speakers are searchers-through far-flung examinations and pursuits of strange landscapes, they bring us face to face with what it means to be human. On Mercury, “Scars gather flesh- / fall apart. The ground writes, rewrites.” The speaker asks again and again: “What does it matter?”

What matters is the gravity of place. What matters is what pulls us. In these twenty gorgeous, tensile poems, Buchen explores what connects and separates, culling from the planets a universe of language, color, work, art, even love.


Dust everywhere: specks whirling over Olympus Mons,
       through Valles Marineris, the planet as a pipe organ
filled with sand grains. Imagine the dead here
       as bits of dust, as old hymns. From the surface,

the sky looks like pallets of lion skins, salt still between
       each hide, as if the tanner was suddenly called away.
Sand laps the yellow edge, the dead marching. Where
       is the redness? Who calls these armies?

Swirl. Swirl. The flutter of fur, still bloody, a false pulse
       inside storms of carbon dioxide. Red comes
only with distance. Dust cuts messages
       through the Borealis basin that could be canals

or optical illusions. The core churns out of tune. Volcanoes
       roar, quiet. Sand, sand, sand, the discomfort
of 5/4 time. Rocks, only for a while, can be alive.
       See this, machine of humanity:

dust only multiplies. You are marching. You are a lion. You are
       the bloody planet. You are painted red, a shrieking mouth.


In The Bloody Planet, Callista Buchen takes us on a breathtaking tour of the solar system, detailing the violent surfaces and inhospitable climates of each planet and leaving us in humble awe of our own. From Mercury’s hot, unstable mantle to Mars’s angry red dust to planet Uranus’s bitter cold, Buchen stands in wonder of these planets, where “giant spots maul whole / levels of world and swallow / themselves the dust afterwards.” In these tightly crafted poems, Buchen wisely looks beyond Earth to draw our attention to Earth, issuing a bold and urgent warning for a world on the brink of its own demise: “See this, machine of humanity” she writes. “Dust only multiplies. You are marching. You are a lion. You are / the bloody planet. You are painted red, a shrieking mouth.” Buchen’s poems are significant, vital-as gorgeous and unstoppable as the alien storms they describe.

-Alyse Knorr, author of Copper Mother and Annotated Glass

What strikes most about Callista Buchen’s work is the mystery of the incentive behind it, her highly driven verbal investigation into matter, especially the merger of matter with human, how the raw material of the human speaks to its mutually created environment. Buchen’s poetic impulse, a deep-felt mission to capture the quintessence of our solar system, is far from usual. Her aim, not to anthropomorphize, nor to reduce to metaphor those spinning emblems of childhood-learning, is rather to weave, out of unexplained contacts that her speakers make with each planet, a combined mood, or hybrid psychology. It is a task so strange that the result, unsurprisingly, has the numinous luminosity of Xavier de Maistre’s “Journey around my room” or Werner Herzog’s film, Heart of Glass, or any one of Loren Eiseley’s epiphanies at night with a bone. I love how space infiltrates these poems; how words occupy whatever space they can, and how small the human is at times, yet how conjoined the poet makes us feel with the larger medium of life, “fleshy swans, wet grapes” all of it. By the end of this wondrous chapbook, everything is one medium-clay, metal, fire, virus, and definition itself becomes porous, thanks to this poet, who has seen “all the way around… the pool of time in between.”

-Larissa Szporluk, author of Traffic with Macbeth and Embryos and Idiots

At once intimate and expansive, and filled with discovery and wonder, the poems of The Bloody Planet examine a universe that is devastating, beautiful, resilient-where image, language, and stone break open, where “the ground writes, rewrites.” From Singapore to the “husk and yard of Ohio” from Mercury to the “stylized dragonfly” of Neptune’s strata, these poems breathe strange and lovely atmospheres and cover vast landscapes, searching deep beneath their rich grounds. As I read and reread this collection, I am continually awed by the haunting geology of Buchen’s poems.

-Amy Ash, author of Open Mouth of the Vase

The enticing thing about Callista Buchen’s The Bloody Planet is its attention to landscape. Her poems encase the spirit with the wavy lines of a topographic map, and because the knobs and knolls and flaming fields of Earth are not sufficient for the task, she is forced to enlist the rest of the solar system. “To understand it // geologically. This is the goal” Buchen writes, and she does a highly creditable job of the task in this arresting collection of poems.

-Karen Craigo, author of Stone for an Eye

About the Author

Callista Buchen

Callista Buchen is the author of the full-length collection Look Look Look (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), and the chapbooks The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) and Double-Mouthed (dancing girl press, 2016). Her work has appeared in Jet Fuel ReviewHarpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Fourteen Hills, and many other journals. She is the winner of DIAGRAM's essay contest, an Indy Arts Council Creative Renewal Fellowship, and the C.D Wright conference's Emerging Writer award, and is the founder of the Carlson-Stauffer Reading Series at Franklin College. A longtime editor and teacher, she lives in the Midwest with her family.

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