It could be said that in this age, the Anthropocene, we cannot discuss mourning without also mourning the earth. As poet and essayist Helen McDonald put it: “To talk about nature is to open yourself up to constant grief.” By marrying two seemingly dissimilar texts within vastly different disciplines, the 18th and 19th century herbarium, as well as a bereavement manual, the book attempts to discuss grief, the grief the speaker experiences over the death of her brother at a young age and the recent death of her father. To make sense of the cyclical nature of life and to seek answers, the speaker turns to the natural world, as well as turning to the women who came before her, the naturalists and artists who were endlessly mesmerized by the world around them, experiencing wonder and awe within the botanical and all of nature, understanding a biocentric unity, attempting to warn us.
"Molly Kugel has written a necessary work for the moment, this very moment of danger: 'In the meantime, as the world is burning...we must take stock.' Kugel has learned from Emily Dickinson as well as Rachel Carson what a wonder and danger it is we live in. And this is a deeply personal kind of seeing being celebrated. She offers a book of observations about observing, about how the science of the world and the mourning of it are connected—no book I know ties so intimately, well, intimacy, to the fate of the natural world so devastatingly as does GROUNDCOVER." —Bin Ramke, author of Earth on Earth
“In these evocative pages, Molly Kugel connects the lives of mothers and children, women and botanicals, and the turning seasons of the natural world as she grieves the losses of a young brother and her father. The seasons of loss and grief are firmly based here in the ancient, ur-story of the loss of a child, that of the Persephone myth. The poet highlights as well the contributions of early women botanists in their struggle with the adaptations necessary to survive and flourish in this world. The poems are often incantatory, connecting the narrator with the lineage of “wise women” who have come before, and whose resonances echo profoundly in the present.”
Sidney Wade, author of Deep Gossip: New and Selected Poems
“'We must take stock,' Kugel urges, of what we’re losing of the earth. Here are the specimens of more than one woman’s collecting. This is what it means to really listen to plants, birds, diatomes, umbones. Kugel-Merkner’s transpecies mourning song is wild grief. Its howl also celebrates all that remains."
Spring Ulmer, author of Benjamin's Spectacles
"The whole world—its too-much-ness, its not-enough-ness, our words for it, our “stuff”—is with
me in Molly Kugel’s poems: Asclepias tuberosa, 'Mid-century Modern Sofa'; Emily Dickinson,
Annie Darwin, Rachel Carson, 'Boy, Age 7'; 'the P-trap', 'your green MG,' narcissus, Wangari
Maathi. I can feel, quite intensely, the work that went into this book—“effortless” is not the
label for the deftness and precision herein—and as it shuttles between the lives and times and
places it tries to know, I too come to know the pains of love, the pitches of grief."
Graham Foust, author of Embarrassments