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Wayne State University Press

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Gut Botany

Poems by Petra Kuppers

Award Winner

Poetry, Michigan, Disability Studies, Nature, Queer Studies

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: December 2021
ISBN: 9780814347638
Pages: 96 Size: 6.5 x 8
Published: March 2020
ISBN: 9780814347645

"Gut Botany charts my body / language living on indigenous land as a white settler and traveler," Petra Kuppers writes in the notes of her new poetry collection. Using a perfect cocktail of surrealist and situationist techniques, Kuppers submits to the work and to the land, moving through ancient fish, wounded bodies, and the space around her. The book invites the reader to navigate their own body through the peaks and pitfalls of pain, survival, sensual joy, and healing.

Gut Botany is divided into eight sections. In "Court Theatre," Kuppers revisits courtroom performances following her sexual assault while drawing from the works of Perel and Bhanu Kapil. "Asylum" grew out of the Asylum Project performance experiments that Kuppers co-directed with dancer/poet Stephanie Heit. "Moon Botany" began as a collaboration with visual artist Sharon Siskin and offers a wheelchair user’s view of insects, mushrooms, and horsetail ferns. Amber DiPetra notes that "this book is beautiful when it needs to be beautiful and it is edgy when it needs to be edgy and that is the sign of writing that matters."

Readers looking for experimental poetry that takes up space in their brains and bodies will dive deep and fast into this queer ecosomatic investigation.

Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist, a community performance artist, a professor of English and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, and a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient. She is author of the poetry collection PearlStitch, the queer/crip speculative story collection Ice Bar, and multiple academic books. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she co-creates Turtle Disco, a community arts space.

Gut Botany weaves disability, ecological, somatic, and performance poetry. Throughout, diverse human and more-than-human bodies touch with tenderness, violence, joy, and pain. Kuppers tries to be open to ‘the all’ and how all her senses ‘layer and story’ so she can write––‘palm tingling’––toward healing, sanctuary, and love.

– Craig Santos Perez

In these poems Petra Kuppers slides words into unexpected spaces following rivers of conscious memories and neural networks of unconscious motions. Places become political and politics become visceral. She weaves a way of being in the world with the forces that oppose it and edges of reality and sensation that serve to feed it. Reading these poems we find light, breezes, and resilience.

– Margaret Noodin, author of Weweni (Wayne State University Press, 2015)

Gut Botany is a capacious assay of corporeal life-support systems. A lingual choreography of interrelation and interdependence forms a generative phenomenology where every point of contact matters. Gendered, sexual, ableist, ecological, and colonial-settler violence is met with fierce and tender resistance. By disarming all forms of tyranny and extractivism, sustainability is possible. This is a work of immense transformative capacity. I am moved by the sheer responsiveness and receptivity that is involved when blooming out of line as a gender non-conforming nebula. Find sustenance in this generous resource of movement and change.

– Brenda Iijima, author of Remembering Animals

Through a bold new empiricism—attentions drawn to surfaces, new ways to touch and understand touching, and thus new depths of healing—the human/more-than-human relation is rewritten. Gut Botany reveals a geospatial philosophy of radical connectedness.

– Linda Russo, author of Participant

Kuppers’ intentionality has remained strong but her lyric gifts have increased with time. Culture Gut Botany yourself and apprehend the growth.

– Shane Neilson, Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature

Petra Kuppers’s new collection is a wonder. [. . .] At turns beautiful and provocative, Gut Botany is a tonic against loneliness.

– Addie Hopes, Edge Effects

Kuppers carefully inhabits that electric moment where the two meet, whether she is holding a stick of rhubarb or dreaming of a dragonfly’s "bristle foot pad hair." Given that we are all, even in quarantine, in an endless interaction with the world outside of us, these are the kinds of moments to learn to live in.

– Dennis James Sweeney, The Massachusetts Review

In this beautifully designed book of experimental and surrealist poems, a reader is both tantalized and tortured as the disabled speaker uses language to revel in a lover’s affection and eroticism.

– Kimberly Ann Priest, Black Earth Institute

Gut Botany is a work that feels. It is a confrontational yet comforting examination of human vulnerability and is highly recommended reading not only for scholars in disability studies but also for those in Performance Studies, Queer Indigenous Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Queer-Crip Theory, ecology, poetry, and American Literature. Much like Kuppers’s other works, the generosity of Gut Botany desires imitation. As it celebrates acts of communion between land, human, and more-than-human species which often go unnoticed, we find ourselves there, learning of deep reverence, devotion, and healing.

– Maria Teresa Houar, Review of Disability Studies

The poems in Gut Botany stiffen moods. They make their meaning out of fleeting feelings that suddenly sit up and hold their forms. There’s pleasure to be taken in the examination this makes possible, but there is danger, too.

– Ezra Dan Feldman, Gertrude Press

Kuppers’s writing is additive, even multiplicative, rather than subtractive or divisive. The book explores myriad forms violence, but also makes room for bodies touching other bodies in wonder and in love.

– Camille Dungy, Orion Magazine

This collection of poems does more than just suggest a poetics of disability, it pushes all of us engaging in disability studies—students, teachers, activists, and artists—to feel more critically through our own physical movement in, and embodied relationships to the spaces we inhabit.

– Jose Miguel Esteban, Disability Studies Community Blog

Kuppers’s surreal and experimental poetry shows how all ecologies are sentient bloomings of contact. Language flows like water, shimmers like a series of moons overhead, and Gut Botanyinvites us: "Just speak, walk with me, close the loop."

– Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Electric Lit

  • 2020 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the category of Poetry: General
  • 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Awards - Result: The Medal Provocateur Finalist
  • 2022 ASLE Creative Writing Book Awards - Result: Winner in Creative Writing category