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The Mara Crossing
Home is where you start from, but where is a swallow's real home? And what does 'native' mean if the English oak is an immigrant from Spain?
In ninety richly varied poems and illuminating prose interludes, Ruth Padel's original new book weaves science, myth, wild nature and human history to conjure a world created and sustained by migration.
'We're all from somewhere else,' she begins, tracing the millennia-old journeys of cells, trees, birds and beasts. Geese battle raging winds over Mount Everest, lemurs skim precipices in Madagascar and wildebeest, at the climax of their epic trek from Tanzania, brave a river filled with the largest, hungriest crocodiles in Africa.
Human migration has shaped civilisation but today is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. In a series of incisive portraits, Padel turns to the struggles of human displacement - the Flight into Egypt, John James Audubon emigrating to America (feeding migrant birds en route), migrant workers in Mumbai and refugees labouring over a drastically changing planet - to show how the purpose of migration, for both humans and animals, is survival.
Poignant, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, here is a magnificent tapestry of life on the move from the acclaimed author of Darwin: A Life in Poems.
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A vertiginous compendium, a prodigy, a book of wonders: it is Montaigne’s and Darwin’s 21st-century child - Independent
A broad-ranging meditation on all things migratory...This is a book of raw interfaces and unnerving encounters. Magnificent poems... a triumph of imagistic ingenuity - Guardian
(A) thoughtful and often quite magical mix of prose and poetry…What is just as fascinating as Padel’s central theme is the insight that she also gives us into poetry, or rather, into the creation of a poem. - Independent on Sunday
The Mara Crossing is a major meditation on migration. The prose is crystalline, the poems full of the wonderful material stuff of life. It's a poet's book to the core, a passionate exploration of her subject, proving that pressures on cells, bodies, creatures (human and other), and on the planet itself, are fit and essential matter for poetry - Jo Shapcott
A glorious fabric, weaving lyricism and hard facts, poetic insight and scientific detail unwinding from the multitudinous threads of geographical migration. A beautiful, far-ranging book about physical journeys and all they might mean to humans and animals alike - Mark Cocker
In this sweeping an unconventional book about migration, Padels commendably calls for compassion and open borders. Her poems and essays are a lyrical tribute to the instincts and whims that catalyse movement, and the trials and beauties that come with motion... there are wonders of nature in this collection which will give pause to sensitive readers - The Economist
In an original, wonderfully imaginative series of reflections, moving between essayistic insights, condensed metaphors of poetry, mysteries of microbiology and animal or human journeys, Ruth Padel takes migration as her subject and the whole earth as her province. A thrilling, poignant, richly illuminating investigation of the energies which create life and drive history - Eva Hoffman
Who would have thought that a poet would write about one of the most fascinating aspects of behavioural biology and human striving? A remarkable, beautifully constructed book, interleaving science and history, clear prose and evocative poems - Professor Patrick Bateson, President of the Zoological Society of London
This book is an extraordinary mixture of poetry, prose, fact and fantasy. - Saga Magazine
An engrossing meditation on the theme of migration…reads like a collaboration between Dorothy Wordsworth and Darwin. - Sunday Telegraph
Lyrical in its prose - Independent
About the Author
Ruth Padel is a prizewinning poet, Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London, and first Resident Writer at Somerset House, London. Her collections include Rembrandt Would Have Loved You, Voodoo Shop and The Soho Leopard, all shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, and more recently Darwin: A Life in Poems, shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award.
Highly acclaimed for her nature writing in a book about conservation, Tigers in Red Weather, and her novel, Where the Serpent Lives, she has also published books on contemporary poetry, including 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem and The Poem and the Journey.
In 2014, Ruth Padel is the first Writer in Residence at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and is recording her experiences in her blog at http://www.ruthpadel.com/blog/.