In spare, vivid, and visceral language, JP Seabright imagines the potential consequences of continuing to ignore the current and ongoing climate crisis. By framing Fragments from Before the Fall as an anthology of found texts and fragments pieced together contemporaneously by survivors, Seabright allows readers to see from a distance and up close, in medias res. We look on with dread as those battling to endure burn themselves to death, hunt for rats and wait to be devoured. Seabright has juxtaposed apocalyptic horror with tenderness and intimacies: ‘black mould’ / ‘contagious laughter.’ The upheaval and disturbance of living through the Fall is reflected in the form of fragments and erasure, the description of pages ripped in half, words drowned by floods or eaten away by fire, the use of Revelation from the Bible to evoke doom and prophesy, the discovery of archives in a waterlogged basement. This doesn’t feel speculative because many of the details come from life as we know it: plague, floods, wildfires, loss of ecosystems, later day Capitalism’s commodification, ignoring science –we are here, moments away from torture by the end in progress. The Fall is imminent. Fragments from Before the Fall is all too likely an accurate prediction. That thought sends a chill through my bones.
JP Seabright’s Fragments from before the Fall writes in, through, and after a world ‘once green pleasant’. Presented as an anthology, Seabright takes on the role of a curator, taking the reader on a tour of an archive of our contemporary ecological moment through the lens of a speculative future. The fragmented work highlights the holes we have created in the atmosphere, the gaps in our knowledge of environmental science, the ways world governments fall short of the mark in preventing an inevitable climate crisis, and the spaces that will be left after the fall. The experience of reading this collection is like watching a disaster film on rewind while the events rage on just outside the window. Seabright’s work offers a pause button, shaking the reader awake to the reality of climate change and our ability to potentially mitigate some of the damage so we don’t all become fragments in a post Anthropocene museum.
This post-Anthropocene artefact is a post post art fact in which the poet editor of this collection is the archivist of a crisis who has travelled back to meet us from deep within the irretrievable realm of a climate-change-post-place. The Fall is collected and re-presented here in its surviving fragments. The oldest archaeological terms become ones that have not yet arrived, framing the work as a continuous Gumtree prophecy that documents the ‘One last / death / chance’ for beauty, memory, forgiveness, and perhaps even an apology to the young as their bodies are devoured in the aftermath. Every fight is a breath for survival; the great cow insanity and mass plague death open wounds in the first world, a world which is ‘hollow / with inarticulation’. There is a vast silence at the heart of this book. The clichés become auto-destructive implosions as the poem ‘[Commodity Stock]’ suggests, refiguring anthems against regret into disaster certainty as ‘when / now / not / if’ calls out to the imminent, waiting on the end of The Fall. The doubled tongued toxic effluency of this anthology proclaims ‘THE END IS NIGHT says / T [in] black charcoal’, in the ‘Post Anthropo-Scene’ we have owned the world to death. ‘climate change is here’, the artefact howls, and this is the ‘[After Party]’.
Cat Chong; Poet, Publisher, Author of Plain Air: An Apology in Transit