“Ed Roberson’s new collection, Asked What Has Changed, answers this question with the keen observations his poetry is known for, in a dancing syntax that, also characteristically, never fails to challenge and surprise. The poems flutter through images at a dizzying pace and offer a cornucopia of subtle takes on the sonnet, adding a sturdy but flexible sonnet-stanza to our tradition’s stock of forms. From his current vantage point, twelve stories above Lake Michigan and eight decades into an African American life, Roberson’s view encompasses what is, at once, the mark of his apartment’s “luxury” status and the “source of Chicago’s smelly tap water.” Another breathtaking contribution to his inquiry into how black aesthetics can sharpen our understanding of local and global ecosystems, this work teaches us not simply to look, but to see.”
–Evie Shockley, author of Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry
Award-winning poet Ed Roberson confronts the realities of an era in which the fate of humanity and the very survival of our planet are uncertain. Departing from the traditional nature poem, Roberson’s work reclaims a much older tradition, drawing into poetry’s orbit what the physical and human sciences reveal about the state of a changing world. These poems test how far the lyric can go as an answer to our crisis, even calling into question poetic form itself. Reflections on the natural world and moments of personal interiority are interwoven with images of urbanscapes, environmental crises, and political instabilities. These poems speak life and truth to modernity in all its complexity. Throughout, Roberson takes up the ancient spiritual concern—the ephemerality of life—and gives us a new language to process the feeling of living in a century on the brink.
ED ROBERSON is a contemporary, award-winning poet, Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern University, and the author of To See the Earth Before the End of the World.