Of Spray and Mist is here.
After nearly two years of work on a single manuscript, Hand to Mouth Books in Walla Walla, Washington has published Of Spray and Mist. At 122 pages, this full-length book features several sequences of poetry, including work first written on San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor Lab’s Whiteley Center last December. You can read more below (or skip over to the Goodreads page).
To acquire a copy from me:
Interested in ordering a copy? The cost is $12 + $3 for shipping via PayPal. Email me if you have questions.
To acquire a copy from Amazon:
Of Spray and Mist is also available on-demand via Amazon. You can get a slightly lower-quality edition, here.
“poems that flit between prayers to nature’s wonders” — Joshua Lew McDermott reviewed the book for Line Rider Press on December 12, 2020.
Words from peers:
Sarah Heady, author of Comfort:
Here is a poet’s deep engagement with landscape, a refusal to look away from the ugly histories contained therein. With an anticolonial stance that rejects extractivist economies, Bem notes: “You need sand for concrete. You need stolen land. / You need language that has been hollowed out and hallowed.” Courting negative capability on his “ritual hike[s],” Bem seeks “an active emptiness” that gives rise to “elaborate, explosive knowing”: of place, of deep time. Declaiming “My questions are purely Anthropocene,” puzzling over how to be in right human relationship, Bem pursues “movement everywhere and always, until there’s nothing left to be but absent.”
Yet as lover to the forests, Bem experiences a “whiplash of sudden ecstasy, thrown neck toward canopy.” In attempting intimacy and even eroticism (“I want my tongue to enter the crevices of the ferns”) with Earth, others, and self, he weaves his own interiority with local ecology, reckoning with solitude, partnership, and community, filled with “longing to be ready for what you bring me.” And, finding grace in the natural world, he observes “[t]hat which continues to flow continues to forgive.” With Bem as our guide, “[w]e seek to know why it all works the way it does. Why it all works out.” Luckily, as we know of poetry, “It is enough. It is the surrendering.” This book labors—and rests—in hope, curiosity, detachment, and “[s]udden, implosive joy.” It is a burst of bright aliveness, “everything in chromatic everything.”
Paul E Nelson, Founder of SPLAB, the Seattle Poetics LAB, and author of A Time Before Slaughter: Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia:
When I read Greg Bem’s work, the visionary & the wild are activated in me. There’s a hunger for experience balanced with the kind of presence and intellect you’d find in a librarian. A post-colonialist & anti-racist often found on a mountain in Cascadia, or a rainforest when not in a library, Greg Bem is a 21st Century North American poet, living in the margins left for white men who choose to use their privilege to confront their own fear in an age when so much is breaking down. He knows the answers are in rituals and in the “urges of flora and fauna” and his writing’s a report of the evolution of his own personal mythology getting us, “closer and closer to the decontextualized core” of his self and our species. Reading his work validates the desire to allow “the world to continue sliding by in the fullest spectrum it can” when almost all contemporary poetry settles for so much less.
Thomas Walton, author of All the Useless Things Are Mine:
Greg Bem’s prose poems are shocking – an “auburn stability hypnogogic inciting the spurred.” They whisper or cry “I am chanting. I am chanting for it to continue.” They “wander until it hurts,” and we wander along with them, mesmerized by a collection vast and particular, systemic and lyric, that dives “into the artful spin and whisk of that which does dazzle.”
Chansonette Buck, recipient of the Stronach Poetry Prize:
In “Defining the Map,” the second poem in this masterful collection, Greg Bem writes “Science comes to me in joys.” This joy permeates the book. Bem’s poetic impulse can be accurately located in the tradition of nature poetry one strain of British Romanticism established, expressing the imminence of the Divine in the manifest world. But for Bem, this imminence is far more complex, and human rather than transcendent. It is rooted not just in the beauty and dazzle of the wilderness he encounters and shows us so palpably, but also in the minutae, rigor, and dailiness of scientific study at a moment when it is alarmingly clear how tenuous and precarious our cohabitation on this planet is. Rather than finding in nature the answers for humanity, he finds questions. And these questions span the gamut of the human experience. Nothing is left out. It’s as if Bem were gathering up the precious content of lived experience in all is permutations: joy, love, beauty, yes, but also the disasters of history, broken hearts, lost connections, longing for some kind of wholeness to be called home, longing for a map when all maps have flaws that fail us. He inspects it all with the precision of a scientist, and the heart and eye of a nature poet, and serves it up to us in an astonishing range of poetic vehicles. Do not miss this book. It will make you more human. It will make you more conscious. And it will open for you a cosmology you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.
John Taylor, author of Remembrance of Water & Twenty-Five Trees:
“Seeking”—this is the movement of these intricate poems and poetic prose pieces. The very process of writing enables Greg Bem to set out on a goal, often that of elucidation. The natural world often seems at an increasingly greater remove from him—and from us. “Remember when we looked around the world?” he asks. Can the separation be bridged? Despite the increasing cognitive and technological distance between man and the cosmos in its most rudimentary manifestations, the poet does look. “The sensory” can be “flashed with wonder” and he feels “an undying love for being alive.” Yet there are also traces of darker narratives in this book, on levels involving others and one’s existence in the whole of things. Bem not only actively, but also “agonizingly” stands in wonder at and attraction to such richly tense moments of memory and perception. They unveil our human condition. In Of Spray and Mist, the reader will discover a poet intensely aware of the “uncertainty” involved in any composition of words: “I have covered myself in fog. And cliff. / “My vision dims. My hearing rings.”
The bio note.
Greg Bem is a poet, multimedia artist, and academic librarian living on a ridge above a tunnel above a lake in Seattle, Washington. His reviews have been featured in Rain Taxi, North of Oxford, and Poetry Northwest. He is the author of the chapbooks Green Axis (2019), Construction Parts 1-6 (2018), and Mountains and Natural Summer (2017), as well as the co-author with Burmese poet Maung Day of 2019’s bilingual Like salt. Like a spine. Recent writing has been featured in Ravenna Press’s Triples 11 alongside the work of Kat Meads, Samuel Ace, and Maureen Seaton.
3 thoughts on “A Book! Of Spray and Mist”
I am so very happy to have this book! I began reading it this morning. As is the way for much poetry for me, it is similar to high protein food, it is dense, packed with meaning, and multi-layered. One can happily live with a poem for time as it reveals itself.
Thank you, Greg, Charles Potts of Hand to Mouth Press; and props to Amy Billharz for the excellent and appropriate cover.