Us from Nothing
OCTOBER 3, 2023
118 pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-72-5
From the big bang to the emergence of Homo sapiens to Kushim and the first recorded use of writing in 3200 BCE to the moon landing in 1969, Us From Nothing is a sprawling history of humanity. Striving to answer the big questions – Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here? – Geoff Bouvier has created a sweeping collection of poetry that gracefully captures the arc of our universe. Fifteen billion years ago, there was nothing, not even light. Now, we live in a universe that plays host to trillions of galaxies with uncountable stars, worlds and maybe even other life. Us From Nothing recounts this epic tale in richly imagined, yet crisp, prose poems that are carefully grounded in historical fact. The result is a remarkable poetic retelling of history that challenges us to think deeply not only about where we’ve come from, but also about where we’re going.
“Bouvier gives us a time-lapse view of time itself – all of it – from the big bang through the emergence of humans (music composes us) on to the present day, in which we are the aliens, and from there into an amortal future. His intricate and stunningly beautiful sentences are full of surprising scientific specificity, bringing us delicacies such as the first orbs of life lighting up the ocean and the inventions of mathematics, microscopes, telescopes and freedom of the press – all suddenly present all at once. It’s sleight of hand at its most poetic.” – Cole Swensen, author of Art in Time
“This is a marvellous book. Only an immensely fertile imagination could tell so elemental a tale in so straightforward yet evocative a fashion. Simple sentences often carry astounding weight. Bouvier makes one care about characters like ‘Life’ and ‘We’ and then the emergence of virtually all of the world’s major thinkers in cameo. Underlying this reach for epic status are many recurrent and interrelated themes, including a complex tale of how democracy originated and why it may be destroying itself, and a painful contrast between Petrarch’s Humanism to our present where scientific discoveries make possible a world in which ‘we will have gone from nothing, to us, to something not us.’” – Charles Altieri, UC Berkeley
“Even just glancing through Us from Nothing’s table of contents, I laughed aloud with excitement and awe, and let me tell you: the feeling never abated! In fact, it deepened with each turn of the page, each pithy song to the past (and near future), each revelation of mystery and meaning. Geoff Bouvier has written a tour through physics and biology and language and art and mathematics and sociology, to the point where such categorizations fall away into meaninglessness, and everything becomes, again, one. This book, like all great books, reframes reality, imagines unbelievable true stories and by doing so creates for us a richer way of apprehending the world.” – Patrick Madden, author of Disparates
“An encyclopedic epic after Eduardo Galeano, Us from Nothing takes on history in poetically compressed, paragraphic cantos. In conversation with cosmic origins as it connects with patterns, past events and pressing concerns, the whole corrects records and delights in telling a tale of the tribe. A contextualizing arrangement, part Blake, part Williams, wholly relational and delighting. ‘Our seers help us speak in nature’s speech. They tell us tales that show us who we are and why we’re here.’” – Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
An Introduction to Geoff Bouvier by Virginia Konchan (Tiffany Troy, Tupelo Quarterly, 31/07/2023)
"While the poems’ larger than life subjects would, in lesser hands, lend to abstraction, theory, or didacticism, Bouvier’s elegant verse creates microcosms out of macrocosms through word play and imaginative flight, characterization, and a poet’s high fidelity to historical accuracy and emotional truth."
About the Author
Geoff Bouvier’s third full-length volume of prose poetry, Us From Nothing, is a poetic history that stretches from the big bang to the near future. It will be published in 2023 in Canada (from Wolsak and Wynn’s Buckrider imprint) and in 2024 in the United States (by Black Lawrence Press). His first book, Living Room, was selected by Heather McHugh as the winner of the 2005 APR/Honickman Prize. His second book, Glass Harmonica, was published in 2011 by Quale Press. Recent writings have appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, New American Writing, Western Humanities Review and VOLT. He received an MFA from Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in 1997 and a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University in 2016. In 2009, he was the Roberta C. Holloway visiting poet at the University of California-Berkeley. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his partner, the novelist SJ Sindu, and teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.