Callista Buchen’s The Bloody Planet, her first full-length collection, embodies a universe filled with themes ranging from nature to cartography, art, love, death, life, traveling—the text is overripe with humanity and all that we face.
“Bluebird” is a fitting poem to begin the collection because Buchen immediately throws the reader into questioning words and meanings.
To say bluebird is nothing.
To say bluebird is saying hello
or hard or evening-tide.
The above stanza sets the poem up nicely and situates the reader in the questioning nature of the poet. She ends this piece
Think of the echo.
I don’t know any words
better than bluebird.
My whole life is bluebird.
and we are left meandering for meaning. But as “bluebird” is life for Buchen, we continue through her text with an image of magnificence, a bright and thoughtful re-definition of the world, guiding our reading. The poet exposes herself to her reader, allowing us to see the world through her eyes and through bluebird.
The collection contains poems about each of the planets, but these poems aren’t simply literal explorations of Mars or Mercury. Instead, they offer glimpses of understanding about our own world. In “On Mercury,” for instance, she opens
Less skin than wrapping, less concrete than gauze,
the ground crumples—floats away, cools
unwrapping the planet to nakedness, letting us see it bare. But she goes on to say
Maybe I don’t breathe
as the surface unravels crease, crust, and mantle.
Nothing guards. What does it matter?
speaking more about being human that what goes on “On Mercury.”
In “On Earth,” Buchen provides a painful reminder that we knowingly kill our own planet–
We light up our fields with fire.
Tire tracks like teeth
She exposes the earth, and, at once, the people that will one day be buried in it.
People want triumph. To triumph
burning the field. The islands
about to sink in the south Pacific
Buchen’s poems are all multifaceted in this way, making the reader read and reread the poems for clarity, for alternate meanings, for nuances first glanced over. She continues “On Earth”
There is a you and there is another you
holding clay hands
hinting that we are never alone.
The knoll. The waters. The knoll. The waters.
The sentence. The island. To understand it
geologically. This is the goal.
To burn out the invisible
highlighting the very essence of what all poetry should be—relatable, recursive, re-readable. Buchan is coaxing us to think, to connect, to see at every level. “Slip” opens
Where is the eye?
and we all wonder . But Buchen has handed the reader the key to solving the riddles with “bluebird.” We must look at her work with more than one eye because the text is layered with possibility.
“Rounded by Water” is about birth. It is about mother and child. It is about nature.
My mother gives birth
to a polished stone.
Even the air is pregnant—
with meaning. And the entire collection continues in this manner. We are forced gently and carefully to open our eyes wider, to grow eyes on the tops of our heads, and to look at each work—at each word—a second and third time. We are asked to think outside of boxes or spheres or fields.
The work closes with “On Neptune,” the blue planet.
in ritual unable to walk
we read sediment waves
long carpet chains
of bone gold rivers
and as the reader unpacks this dense world Buchan has built with words, we find ourselves
exactly in the place of willingness
of weather to turn
vortexes vanish reemerge
for a while something
the size of Earth nestled inside
Callista Buchen’s The Bloody Planet will send the reader on an odyssey out of the reaches of his/her own world. Instead, we find ourselves encapsulated in the world of bluebird—in the world of the poet. The collection is for the lover of the overly philosophical and the lover of the pleasantly simple. It’s for people who love reading about nature and space and time and humanity. It can be ingested in one sitting or savored slowly, but you will probably find yourself reading it more than once, however you choose to consume the work.