Every poem in Territorial is stunning—each spun fiercely with beauty as well as tremors of perpetual threat and violence against the female body. Mira ‘in Russian / it turns out means World, / so there are countless maps / of me & my confessions / in a language I can’t read.’ Indeed, every poem in Territorial is a ‘Mira’—each a mirror-map that precisely locates precarious bodies across terrains of trauma.
Territorial explores the bargains that women make to stay safe from violence. Set in a landscape of looming ecological ruin, the poems bear witness to the effects of drought on the California chaparral region and delve into difficult personal terrain to reveal patterns of abuse we inflict on the earth and each other. How can we emerge from a devastated landscape into a sense of healing and repair? Using the characteristics of violence—repetition and escalation—the collection connects subjects that range from the dawn of recorded sound to the mapping of myths onto constellations, the ecosystem of a leach pond, and the photographs of Alfred Stieglitz. In tracing the ways narratives of predation imprint onto the body, memory, environment, and future generations, Territorial finds resilience in the powers of language to reshape experience.
A work of narrative beauty and lyrical depth, Mira Rosenthal’s Territorial mines through a lush and sensual life for deep emotion and ardent language. Through the examination of the violence and the delight of the quotidian, the poet brings forth an unnerving reckoning, exposing the anxieties and complexities of her generation. Swept away by searching imagination, Rosenthal stays grounded in the body. Amid her body’s shadows she finds clarity and peace.
Rosenthal wonders how a woman can survive in the midst of so much desiccation. How to recognize connection when being uprooted or rendered. This is the kind of work a reader longs for. A book we believe. Sensual, frightening, richly wrought and balanced, Territorial holds no truisms, no aphorisms. The nuances of person and place are expertly exposed. There is tenderness, yes, but it roots alongside implicit and complicit violence. All are connected but all won’t be saved. . . . This is a poet you will return to.
Territorial begins with origins—of an interstate system, of sexual threat inherited from myth, of ‘some nocturnal female sense’ a daughter learns on watch for cougars in a state of drought. Mira Rosenthal traces how these paths are cut and circumscribed by human violence, capitalism, environmental exploitation. It is deeply refreshing to see these forces intertwined in poem after poem, to see a book that is as sensual as it is intelligent, as critical of the self as it is of the larger world, as microscopically precise as it is wildly transgressive. Prepare to be unsettled and transfixed by this extraordinary collection.
Mira Rosenthal is the author of The Local World, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, and residencies at Hedgebrook and MacDowell, she is an associate professor of poetry at Cal Poly. She also translates contemporary Polish poetry.