Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Cradleland of Parasites (27 October 2020, Rooster Republic Press) might be Sara Tantlinger’s best collection yet, a sequence of frightening, gruesome, breathtakingly beautiful poems about the Black Plague and other very real pestilence horrors up through modern times. The collection reads especially urgent during our current global pandemic. Its well-researched history of how humanity has dealt with infectious disease in the past arrives through the most beautiful poetic lines, with rhythms, repetitions, and occasional end rhymes. 

Phrase and line repetitions in poetry are wonderful, but what I especially loved about this collection is how the content of each poem felt unique and not repetitive, illuminating the Black Plague and its impact on humanity in strikingly varied ways, from love poems to litanies, first-person accounts to Pestilence itself addressing humanity. The narrators in the poems might be limited to the knowledge of the time or well-versed in our modern understanding of viruses, genomes, and epidemics. They might be warning the reader or reveling in the horror, finding in the grotesque and awful the very life-force that animates our Garden, the Earth, the only such place we know of in the universe, so far. This variety, plus the many things I didn’t know about the Black Plague and plague doctors and history, as well as shocking insights that pertain to our current experience kept me turning the pages for more. I will be grabbing this book off the shelf often.

Both paperback and hardcover editions have compelling covers (I’m a fan of red/black or red/white color schemes and those colors are so warranted here) while the hardcover edition adds additional photography inside, separating the poems into natural parts. I highly recommend this incredible collection.

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