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Decomposition: An Anthology of Fungi-Inspired Poems

Poems, like mushrooms, demand our close attention before they can be found or seen at all. As mushrooms are a hybrid kingdom—first thought to be plants, now believed closer to animals, but truly neither, a life form in fact uniquely their own—so it is with poems, which reside hybrid between music and speech, between logic and feeling, between waking thought and the leapings of dream, doing work they alone can. And then, as the largest living creature on earth (described in Laura Kasischke’s poem) is a fungal mat whose expressed DNA extends over many square miles in Oregon’s eastern forests, so poetry’s mostly unseen devices underlie, sustain, and connect over vast distances other dimensions of language, whether lullaby, sermon, or political address at both its best and its worst. As mushrooms hold dangerous powers, so do poems—Plato famously banned poets from his ideal Republic because their words can sway in ways beyond reason’s reach. Both mushrooms and poems hold shamanic potential; when taken inside us fully, they have the power to alter consciousness in profoundly unpredictable ways.

Neither porcini nor poems are day to day staples: continuous availability is confined to the more easily grown, more easily storable grains. Yet the intensities of the rare, the seasonal, the brief, the strange, and that which requires both a kneeling intimacy and depth of knowledge to be safely known at all—these are needed as much as oatmeal, rice, or bread. It is that elusive, concentrated presence, the sudden coming and going of life forms mostly hidden, the awareness of mysteries that can only be given, not forced into being, that both the mushrooms and the poems in this volume point toward. Gathered from the root-zones of many different trees, knife-scraped from rock-face, lifted from dung, spore-flung into air, these gathered mushroom poems offer undomestic, distinctive discoveries to all who choose to join the effort to find them.
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