by Margi Prideaux
There is a centuries-old Japanese form of writing called the haibun: meditative narratives ending with a haiku that acts as a summary or extension of the ideas and moods in the prose. In Accidental Gardens, Rob Carney both honors this form and gives it an update for the 21st century. These 42 essays—arranged into sections titled “Environmental Studies,” “Wine Is Rain in Translation,” “Seven Seeds,” and “Raccoon Verses”—are all short and end, haibun-style, with poems or encapsulating images. These essays are impressed by the natural world, and unimpressed by politics. They are lessons on poetic craft, and poetic themselves. They are at home in the American West but aware of the whole earth, all its landscapes and animals and magic, but also its fragility since so many of its human inhabitants are reckless and absurd. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes reverent, Accidental Gardens is always smart, and vital, and concerned.
‘With his clarity, directness and humour, Rob Carney writes like Richard Brautigan in an age of ecological collapse. This collection of flash essays and poems is a journey through the absurdity, tragedy and black comedy of late-stage capitalist and consumerist America, weaving between despair and hope like sixty million spawning salmon. It is also a map that points us towards how the damage might be repaired—a reminder to open our eyes and to pay attention.’
—Nick Hunt, Where the Wild Winds Are and Editor at The Dark Mountain Project
‘As long as I can remember, I have hated poetry. Then, Rob Carney presented his work at the AWP Writer’s Conference in Seattle Washington. I found myself breathless and amazed, dreading the end of each piece, fearing it was the last. To my immense relief, I discovered that Rob’s work climbs off the page and embeds itself inside of the reader with the same sublime clarity and intimacy that so effectively captured and held my attention that dark, cold night in the Pacific Northwest.’
—March Twisdale, Prose, Poetry & Purpose and Focus On!
‘There are a few writers who don’t disappointment me, ever. Kim Stanley Robinson. J.G. Ballard. Sappho. Maybe that’s a weird list? I don’t know. Rob Carney is on that list too. Rob Carney cuts through literary bloat like an angry and very funny tusked animal. An ironic saber-tooth. A compassionate rhino, compassionate because it doesn’t have time for b.s. and because, also, and I mentioned this, he’s funny. Even when tragic and, let’s face it, things are sorta tragic right now. But you know that. What you don’t know is that Rob Carney’s Accidental Gardens will give you an emotional and ethical vocabulary to live in, a way to be that is neither falsely hopeful nor fashionably despairing. It will give you, and this is the word for it: goodhumanimalism.’
—Christopher Cokinos, Professor of English, Arizona Institutes for Resilience