Aire Celeste Norell's Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees: Our Gifts To Future Generations
Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees: Our Gifts to Future Generations, edited by Aire Celeste Norell, is a collection of environmental poetry that includes the work of 18 writers (most of them So Cal based). The poets featured in this first edition of the anthology are: M.C. Bruce, Velene Campell, Luis Campos, Jim Doane, Peggy DoBreer, Erika Horn, Jasmin Jordan, Pete Justus, Marie Lecrivain, Dave Nordling, Aire Celeste Norell, Alice Pero, PeBlackwish, Steve Ramirez, Aaron Roberts, Jeremy Stephens, Linda Strong, and John Swift.
Norell published Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees for the next WorldFest, an annual, solar-powered gathering held to honor nature and humanity. The celebration includes vegan food, music, film, crafts, and, of course, celebrity appearances. New to the next WorldFest celebration will be a poetry festival, organized by Norell and co-sponsored by “two idiots peddling poetry” (poetryidiots.com) and poeticdiversity. The poets will have a full stage and a full day to perform and speak.
Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees is a weighty collection of poetry that has the power to educate, empower, romance, and—yes—slightly depress the reader. This is not a nature anthology full of descriptions of bright rainbows, rolling green hills, clean air, and happily roaming wild animals. (Of course, the reader is warned of this by the sort of tongue-in-cheek title of the anthology.) Rather, it is a realistic look at today’s world from a myriad of perspectives.
The pieces in this anthology raise awareness of and inspire people to care about what we have done and are doing to the earth (see, for example, “Paper or Plastic?” by Jasmin Jordan, “The River” by PeBlackwish, and “Neptune Massage Parlor” by Aaron Roberts and Jeremy Stephens). But within this sort of political realm are pieces that explore our eternal connection and relationship to nature (as in “Breakwater” by Peggy DoBreer, “Too Busy” by Alice Pero, and “Ghosts Dance” by Steve Ramirez). These and other comparatively lighter pieces (such as “Dear Future Generations,” Luis Campos) are peppered throughout the book to break up the heaviness of the majority of the pieces. Other general themes include how our everyday lives get in the way of our doing something to protect the earth that is our home, how taking from the earth begets more taking—how we are destroying the earth that provides for us everything we need, and the clashes that arise as we engage in conflict for ownership of the earth’s natural resources.
Upon first read this organization can seem a bit random. However, it was Norell’s intention to create a wave effect of tone and message. As such, the reader should take each piece as a separate entity and not expect to be taken on a guided tour that ends with the satisfaction of any sort of conclusion.
Norell carefully chose the pieces to be included: there was no open call for submission. She packs a whammy by including some heavy-hitting poems. “Driving Along the 91” by Jim Doane takes us on a winding ride through the Anaheim Hills on Interstate 91. He offers vivid descriptions of how suburban development to accommodate an ever-growing population results in the destruction of nature:
I have witnessed open sores scab over
with the crust of subdivisions;
watched homeowner children
find ways to pick at the wounds.
What’s impressive about this piece is the responsibility the speaker takes on. He speaks of the atrocity of what we are doing to the earth and shows us the extent to which he is truly aware of it, but he also drives “on in complicit silence.” This type of honesty is reflected in many of the pieces in this collection: take “And What Great Wall” by Velene Campbell or “I’m Going to Miss Tigers” by Pete Justus, for example.
In “Philosophy,” M.C. Bruce puts a spin on the ageless question, If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? He shows us the arrogance of asking such a question, as if the fact of humanity takes precedence over the Earth itself. “What of the tree itself?” he asks. He personifies the trees, has them watching and listening to humans—and they are seemingly paying much more attention than we. The poem resolves with a new question:
It should be, rather, when our quicksilver
lives expire, if there is no tree around,
can there be a witness trusted
to remember the passing at all?
As in the other poems in this collection, M.C. Bruce shows deep sensitivity. This is our gift to future generations—passion, awareness, and a call to action.
Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees: Our Gifts to Future Generations is just a beginning for Norell. She is considering future publications, which may include a larger geographical realm or perhaps multiple volumes in a series. Profits on the sales of Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees will be donated to WorldFest, which makes the $15 charge just that much more bearable. The next WorldFest celebration will be held on Earth Day 2005.
Cracked Pavement & Plastic Trees; Norell, Aire Celeste (editor). $15.00 2004. 40 pp.
Aire Celeste Norell is an L.A. Slug (alumni of UC Santa Cruz), a Unitarian-Universalist, and a compassionate warrior for peace toward all living things. She currently works as a tutor in after-school programs for low-income, urban youth. Her poetry has been published in poeticdiversity and The Blue House. She recently published her first chapbook, The Ugly Duckling & Other American Tragedies.
Among her current projects are organizing a poetry festival for WorldFest 2005-www.worldfestevents.com.