Book Review – Anatomic by Adam Dickinson

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Science / Poetry
Publication Date: April 24th, 2018
Publisher: Coach House Books

A phosphorescent amoeba splitting into a garden of phrases – Anatomic is a prose-and-poem mimicry of the delicate chaos that is biology, eternally in bloom. Biology is a survivor no matter how it’s suppressed. Always, you will find it creeping into even the most sterile, brutally industrial places – all it takes is a single crack in the foundation, and in will seep organic life, the cold metal but a skeleton for a writhing body of flora and colour.

This is a wildly ambitious project, and frankly too rare. I find myself unexpectedly bonded to it, even the more explosion-of-thought poems I wasn’t as fond of. I’m passionate about biology and like to include it in my own work. Dickinson does it with more scientific tact rather than the fever dream runoff mine (barely) functions on, but I’m glad to see that others are inspired by the same intricate strangeness in nature.

Something also of interest is the way Anatomic compares the way people (mis)treat themselves and the other lifeforms on Earth and how it relates to the twisted state of politics that seems to have engulfed the world in recent years. I’ve actually caught flack for thinking this before, but I firmly believe a growing knowledge in biologic science will lead to less social problems. There are so many variables in life, and our own cellular composure does not act in malevolent disregard, nor rigid black and white structures, so neither should we.

I could say that technically, this is the most personal poetry collection I’ve ever read, as not only is it emotionally and intellectually personal but genetically personal, as the author includes portions drawn directly from information on his own individual chemical compounds and cells. It is quite literally an artwork made with blood, sweat and tears.


  • “I wear multinational companies in my flesh. But I also wear symbiotic and parasitic relationships with countless nonhumans who insist for their own reasons on making me human.”
  • “Every nation feels it is promised the whole earth. Every nation sits atop a pile and waits.”
  • “The unconscious is structured like a hormone. The ideas of the past are already quorum sensing the ideas that will replace them.”
  • “If they worked together, the microbes could eat us in a few days. Our bodies would blacken, liquefy, and run into the streets. I keep thinking I can feel them, and so I wash my hands of their stop-motion ponds. Anxiety is a form of autoimmunity. You can’t be trusted with your own intentions.”
  • “Over the surface of a world whose merchandise circulates within my cellular respiration, each exhale was injuring the air. I didn’t consent to carrying these chemicals inside me. I walked until I couldn’t see stars.”


[I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

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