How to Draw A Rhinoceros / Kate Sutherland
Toronto: BookThug, c2016.
This is a debut collection by a law professor and poet, who also happens to be an acquaintance of mine. But that had no bearing on the fact that I adored this book of poetry.
I enjoyed it because of its cleverness, creative wordplay, and focus on science and on a specific theme - obviously the rhinoceros. I've made no secret of my love of the combination of science & poetry - from Alice Major to Madhur Anand, I've always enjoyed this combo.
This book takes the natural sciences as its subject. Sutherland examines the rhino from many angles; historical (the first touring rhino); artistic (Durer's rhinoceros sketches); biographical (sketches of some of the best known zoo owners/beast collectors in history); whimsical (Clara the rhino aboard ship, in law school, in space and more).
Each one has a different light to shed on the place that the rhinoceros has played in human history and culture. There are even some "found poems", something I always find intriguing - these ones are drawn from varied sources, from a 19th C. circus poster, from government reports of poaching, from Theodore Roosevelt & Ernest Hemingway's hunting narratives, as some examples.
The thematic thread - a rhinoceros - holds all of these witty poems together. The facets of the collection provide differing views of natural history and human interference in animal life, and hint of much more to be explored. Thankfully there are some notes on the writing of the poems at the end that may give interested readers a bit more to search out, now that the never-before-considered topic of the rhinoceros seems so fascinating.
If you have any interest in history, natural or otherwise, and welcome an encounter with new poets and unexpected obsessions, I recommend finding a copy of this satisfyingly enjoyable read.