We Could Do Better, You and I: Ecology, Design and Poetry: Reading Betsy Andrews’ The Bottom

by | Sep 23, 2014 | Poetry Collections, Reviews


Betsy Andrews_The BottomClick here to view my interview with Betsy Andrews.

When I first began reading Betsy Andrews’ book-length poem, The Bottom, I was reminded of an incident that occurred nearly two years ago now. In October of 2012, an article appeared on Slate.com regarding a large, startlingly-blue eye that had washed up on a Florida beach. Its size and opulence could not immediately be placed with any one undersea creature; and its dismemberment, washed up, created a stir. I remember when the article first appeared, there was a buzz of conversation: a guessing game of potential creatures and legends, not to mention the calendrical proximity to Halloween. But though these exchanges were entertaining, if not thought-provoking at times, I couldn’t help but think of isolation.

You see, when I think of the ocean, I visualize that deep blue, waves crashing, a tan beach—yes—but I also see a lot of open space: room for the sunlight to cut through, for the shadow of ships overhead, and the occasional creature—a shock of color and contrast. An eye, perhaps. I couldn’t tell you what led me to this visualization, or why it’s the first image to come to mind when I think of great expanses of water, but it is. I can imagine, too, the reefs and the wreckage and the pollution, etc., but I’m plagued with this concept of isolation. It’s hardly the conceptual journey you would expect after the mind-numbing push of Finding Nemo and “Under the Sea,” which embrace the fun, color and activity of undersea life… but I think what I see delves deeper, somehow; I end up in a place where I can see the beauty and the power, in all that richness, and perhaps a hint of what’s become of it.


Continue reading my review of The Bottom on The Rumpus. . .


BETSY ANDREWS is the author of The Bottom (42 Miles Press, 2014), winner of the 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize, and New Jersey (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), which was awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Her chapbooks include She-Devil (Sardines Press, 2003), In Trouble (Boog Press, 2004), and Supercollider (2006), a collaboration with the artist Peter Fox. Her writing has appeared widely in publications ranging from Fence, Stone Canoe, and Phoebe to the Yemeni newspaper Culture. She is a graduate of the MFA program in poetry at George Mason University. Betsy is also the executive editor of Saveur magazine. She has taught numerous courses on poetry and creative writing as well as food writing.