At the heart of Claire Orchard's first poetry collection is Charles Darwin, during the intense period in which he was working on his controversial theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species. His world as traced in his notebooks and letters - his daily habits, his relationships, his health - is drawn out in full imaginative colour and echoed in unexpected ways in the poet's own world 200 years later. We also find here depictions of childhood, parenthood, odd characters, split-second decisions. This witty, compassionate book speaks of the beauty and strangeness of all living things, including, and perhaps especially, humankind.
‘I thought a lot about what Orchard wanted to achieve with the collection. I’m not sure that I would have had the guts to place myself – my small life – alongside Darwin. This may be the point. The idea can be found in four haiku and a ‘Fibonacci poem’ about Annie’s death. Orchard’s brother wrote her a computer program that extracted seventeen-syllable phrases from an electronic copy of On the Origin of Species. Orchard then had to scroll through the mass of decontextualised text to find sequences that resonated:
to make the corn grow
any more than it falls to spoil.
The randomness with which Orchard found these poems suggests the arbitrariness of illness. The ‘rain’ of life is something we all have to deal with, and by taking apart Darwin’s greatest work in order to describe his grief, Orchard recontextualises Darwin. He becomes a father, like any other, and the transition is touching. I have returned again and again to these poems.' — Sarah Jane Barnett, author of Notes on Womanhood,