Bodies, of the Holocene

Christopher Cokinos


This is a brooding and daring collection of lyric prose set on the lush prairie of eastern Kansas.

Listen to Christopher Cokinos read from his book.

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In this brooding and daring collection of lyric prose set on the lush prairie of eastern Kansas, writer and naturalist Christopher Cokinos explores the dangers of falling too much in love with the outer world as a way of escaping a deeply fraught marriage. In landscapes both broken and bountiful, he considers the sustainable environment and the sustainable psyche while uncovering secrets and fears in order to find a hopeful, balanced self. Moving to the mountains of the West, Cokinos muses on the role of art itself in making a life worth living, discovering that art can move us as much as lovers and the land. This book grounds the whole of the self in nature, in time, in bodies both sexual and contemplative.

In language afire, Christopher Cokinos places the phenomenon of experience in the context of the Great Sand Dunes, darting mergansers, and self-fulfilling flowers—intensifying all these phenomena in the convergence, vivifying everything he turns his attention to. Like the “deliciously specific” song of one oriole, Bodies, of the Holocene “declares life as lived.”

—Amy Leach, author of Things That Are

Cokinos turns a scientist’s minute eye on the artifacts of human experience. Page by page, he lovingly and ruthlessly gazes—at stars, trees, birds, words, sex, loss, hope—until the object of his gaze yields up its tiny constituent parts. How fitting that such a project should find its voice in the form of these micro-essays, each one dense and particulated as soil, requiring from us a readerly carefulness that involves us in Cokinos’s own work of close study.

—Kimberly Johnson, author of A Metaphorical God

With remarkably deft engagement of both beneath-the-skin intimate micro scales and vast macro scales, with beautiful attention to vernacular and wilderness landscapes, Cokinos has written a poetic argument for embodied experience of physical geography, for the need to understand our human selves as, quite literally, carnally connected to everything we are in touch with. While Bodies, of the Holocene is certainly a text about loss, fear, and hurt, it is also a joyful singing meditation on transformation and the potential of love, ceremony, and the redemptive powers of confession to salvage human self, to (re)connect with the multitudes that are beyond or non human.

—Sarah de Leeuw, author of
Geographies of a Lover


i.    shapes that bring me here
Driving to Jazz in the Rain
If Attention Is a Form of Prayer
Probability Clouds
The Earth Here Brims with Watchful Breathing
partly of the Holocene
Bobcat Tracks Along the Kaw River Edge
Still Life After News of Distant Plague
Attendant, the Painter Charles Burchfield
The Body’s Constellations
“Urine Particles Like Angels”
Wildflower Road
Letter to Sylvia Plath While Thinking of de Chirico

ii.    threatened and endangered
Rereading Muriel Rukeyser’s “Speed of Darkness” …
Public Works
At 4 a.m. in the Summer: Hope
Threatened and Endangered
The Discovered Mandible and Maxilla of an Ancient Shark
Report, 1990
A Nest at Dawn
Night at The World’s Largest Atomic Cannon

iii.    these things attach and these things unhook, unhinge to scatter, for the years were overcast, the years were good and sad
One Night in Middle Age
And there is Laurel Ridge.
The First Affair: Skin, a Sky Sometimes
If Regret Were a Town
Blood Work

iv.    what we become, what we need along the way
The Second Affair: A Color
Entries from My Journal of Your Absence1
Visiting the Ancient King’s Tomb in Lin’an
Your Skin No Longer Covert to Me, I Remember
After Two Particular Sorrows, I Read Lu Chi in Late Summer
“This Is Willard Snow Sitting Under a Silver Maple”
Preposition, Dispersion
Blue False Indigo
Thunder at Dawn
The Passages, 2001
Enough despair.
Naming the Light
Pollen: An Ode
A Walk Through Blacksmith Bluebird
Spontaneous Calligraphists

About the Author


Christopher Cokinos is the author of two other books of literary nonfiction, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers and The Fallen Sky, and a poetry collection, Held as Earth. He is the winner of the Glasgow Prize, the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Fine Line Prize for Lyric Prose and a Whiting Writers' Award. He lives in Tucson, where he teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona. Over the years, he has called eastern Kansas and northern Utah home.


Covering ground that shifts from war to beauty, animals to marriage, dreams to sex, and earth to stars, Bodies, of the Holocene has the effect of pausing the slow creak of our geological march through time. In the process, Cokinos compels his readers to savor the wonder and absurdity of the natural world and our place in it.

—Laura Maylene Walter, Mid-American Review, Fall 2013

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