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Diver Beneath the Street

Petra Kuppers

Poetry, True Crime, Nature

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: February 2024
ISBN: 9780814351116
Pages: 72 Size: 6.5 x 8
Published: February 2024
ISBN: 9780814351123
Pages: 72 Size: EPUB

A decaying psychogeography unfurls the landscapes of the 1967–69 Michigan Murders, the 2019 Detroit serial killer, and the COVID-19 lockdown in this visceral poetry collection. Author, performance artist, and disability culture activist Petra Kuppers dissects traces of violence in the richness of the soil while honoring lost community members. Dynamic and somatic poems traverse the realms of urban space, wild rivers, and the hinterlands of suburbia, glimpsing the decay of bodies, houses, carpets, hair, and bones by way of ecopoetry. Poems like "Reintegration" and "Earth Séance" delve into cycles of decomposition and decreasing biodiversity across the micro- and macroworlds. Others such as "Dancing Princesses" tie timeless fairy-tale tropes of violence toward women to modern murders and lived experience. Moments in lockdown are embodied through somatic exploration of nature and self in works like "Dear White Pine in My Garden." This evocative entanglement of life and death, joy and horror, natural and artificial processes and particles offers an intriguing lyrical and poetic quality as well as unique perspectives through the lenses of feminist, queer, and disability studies.

Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist who uses somatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. She is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan, a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow, and codirector of the somatic writing studio Turtle Disco.

What happens when the murder house is down the street? When grim fairy tales are true? With vivid language and visceral wit, Petra Kuppers dives into the wreckage of poisoned ecologies: violence, geography, and nature. Come drift here across ley lines into beetle and bone, axe and sap. Come dance the earth séance of virus and white pine elixir. This book is a reliquary, a remediation, a gift: 'a blossom to honor the dead.'

– Gabrielle Civil, author of the déjà vu: black dreams and black time

Petra Kuppers's Diver Beneath the Street knows we're no safer asleep in our beds than straying from the path into the forest or taking to the streets. Me too, whisper its poems from under the factory-desecrated ground, where twelve princesses don their masks and a whole mycelium network lights up the dance floor. In this bold book, fairy tale becomes rallying cry, true crime becomes true rhyme, murder mystery becomes cosmic mysticism, and wreckage becomes wonder.

– Danielle Pafunda, author of Along the Road Everyone Must Travel, winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize

There are many voices that arise from the natural world that call us to attention. But there are none as clear, as vital, or as important as that of Petra Kuppers. In Diver Beneath the Street, Kuppers serves as a doula for ghosts and landscapes and illuminates, like a searchlight trapped in the pandemic's lighthouse, the intricate and often devastating connections binding violence, terrain, and the feminine form. Diver Beneath the Street will live in your bones.

– CMarie Fuhrman, coeditor of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations

Kuppers's poetic language is agile and rich, dynamic and beautiful, but Kuppers also places the evocative quality of language within the realm of injustice, violence, and community upheaval. Diver Beneath the Street feels like quite a careful and thoughtful juxtaposition of both joy and horror, which culminates in an assertion of survival.

– Ginger Ko, author of POWER ON

Pushing off from Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck, Petra Kuppers swims around under the pavement, where sexual terror seeps into body and soil and the poisons of real fairy tale nightmares supercharge the old trope of woman as landscape. Yet Kuppers reveals natural models for healing and finds solace in our vast, collective imaginations. If this enthralling and revelatory book doesn't reorient you toward the subterrain and the subaltern, toward deep feminist ecologies, what will?

– Christine Hume, author of Everything I Never Wanted to Know