Maxine Scates is the author of three previous collections of poetry, Undone, Black Loam, and Toluca Street. She is coeditor, with David Trinidad, of Holding Our Own: The Selected Poems of Ann Stanford. Her poems have appeared widely in such journals as the American Poetry Review, Agni, the New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her poetry is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and the Oregon Book Award for Poetry.
The poems of My Wilderness often take place on the wooded hillside in Oregon where Maxine Scates has lived since the mid-1970s. They chronicle how the woods, which were once a refuge, have turned into a landscape of change where trees once numerous are now threatened by storm and the presence of the humans who live among them. These poems also engage her partner’s threatening illness, the death of her closest friend, and the death, at age one hundred, of her mother, an indomitable figure who led Scates through a working-class childhood in Los Angeles fraught with domestic violence. Grounded in the shifting borders of migrations and extinctions plant, animal, and human, of memory and grief, My Wilderness inevitably asks us to consider not only our own mortality but also our impact on the world around us.
Excerpt from “Dear Maple”
will save you now unless the small branches
sprouting like a halo from your eight-foot stump
take hold. The young women at the Farmer’s Market
are already selling the most beautiful turnips,
glowing like pearls, and all spring the swale
of camas shone blue in the morning light. How
can any of us know what will save us?