Spotlight series #38 : Megan Kaminski

rob mclennan
Jun 3 · 3 min read


These poems come out of a larger project of thinking with/being with plants that are present with us in the world, but often function as scenery in the human gaze. Specifically, I’m interested in how research in plant cognition and plant communication can expanded our concepts of sentience, connectedness, and compassion — perhaps in thinking of fungal networks connecting trees to share information across the forest, the epigenetic inheritance of traits through subsequent generations of plants, and “kin recognition” amongst a variety of species. What neglected knowledge can plants share when we encounter them as subjects rather than as setting? In these poems I’ve started thinking with two trees in my own backyard: a craggy black locust and an ash, which is currently unafflicted by the emerald ash bores that have moved into town. Out of these kinds of direct encounters, and out of research in evolutionary biology, plant studies, and phenomenology, I’ve been exploring a poetics of vegetal life, specifically drawing on plants’ ability to thrive in the face of trauma and loss. The poems coming out of this project both attempt to enter into a world co-present with but other than our own and to see vegetal inhabitance as a model of unconditional generosity in the face of vulnerability.


who we leave behind

bark diamonded to touch
toothed leaflet and winged seed
( who do you love )
kin until it is no longer
left arm reaching out in dream

I try to stitch the pieces
into something pretty
a blanket to warm these still
cool nights everything that we
love will fade someday tell
untrue things to sleep lonely nights
never ready not quite whole
an island sinking beneath the sea

where we are situated

high in the tree canopy wind pushes branch into branch a
scrambling of touch one limb becoming another the morning
gray and bright sun pushing through cloud cars abating as the
commute softens into mid-morning blackbirds in the gnarled
black locust doves on rooftop squirrels chattering on and on

picture: a mammoth rubbing hide on bark the sharp prick of
thorns emerging as buffer

picture: seas and glaciers that once covered this place

picture: limestone erupting bison grazing tallgrass

picture: prairie grass pink orchid, wood betony, large-
flowered coreopsis, prairie phlox, funnel-form beard tongue,
pale purple coneflower, lead plant, prairie blazing star,
rattlesnake master, hoary puccoon, yellow wild indigo, and azure
aster all flowering to open my hands breaking to blossom
the fields the grasses the fields

Megan Kaminski [photo credit: Brenda Sieczkowski] is the author of two books of poetry, Deep City (Noemi Press, 2015) and Desiring Map (2012), with a third book Gentlewomen forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2020. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Diagram, Seneca Review, and other journals. She is an associate professor in the University of Kansas’ Graduate Creative Writing Program and is the founder and curator of Ad Astra Community Workshops and Readings, a new series of community workshops and readings oriented towards creating practices based in self-expression, healing, and community engagement. Currently she is working on a book about indeterminacy, attraction, and plant thinking.

rob mclennan

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