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Mother Octopus
by Sarah Giragosian


Paperback, 88 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-957483-21-4

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Mother Octopus is animated by eco-poems that raise questions about the nature of human and animal appetites and the increasing levels of consumption that threaten the environment, while also exploring queer forms of intimacy and resilience in the Anthropocene. Giragosian's poems inquire into the forces and agencies (ie: gut flora, bacteria, microorganisms) that impact animals and human animals in complex ways not always on our personal level of consciousness. In an era in which the global pandemic is shaping discourse about animals and environment (often in reductive ways), Mother Octopus deepens the conversation about how the crisis derives from humanity's problematic relationships to animals and the environment, as well as the indiscriminate omnivorism that characterizes our age. Elegiac and yet critical of false consolation, Mother Octopus delves into the anxieties, violence, and pleasures of consumption (corporeal, economic, and societal) and its impacts on peoples, animals and environments. 

"How do these biologically and imaginatively intimate poems manage to weave reckonings with whiteness, queer love across borders, the loss of a beloved mother, human history and deep time, climate collapse, migration, and the end of empire with the worlds of wings, fins, octopus eggs, tentacles, talons and paws of our animal kin? I don’t know, but I’ll be studying to learn from the brilliant leaps and sonically stitched imagery of these haunting, beautiful poems that stun into blazes of feeling and thought. In their traverse of worlds and speakers and species, we learn the poetic magic of empathy, of metaphor, of seeing deeply into other beings and into our own animal bodies. Sarah Giragosian has written poems we need in this moment of precarious cruelty and persistent wonder. I am grateful for this work."

—Anne Haven McDonnell, author of Breath on a Coal, winner of the Halcyon Award

                                                   for Poetry (2022)

"Sarah Giragosian’s Mother Octopus is a book of love—erotic, familial, and above all, ecological. It is also a book of grief—for the speaker’s mother, for the lacunae of language, for America and its many self-inflicted traumas, and especially for the dying earth. In richly musical, exquisitely lineated poems, Giragosian introduces readers to snowy owls, fig wasps, and, of course, the titular mother octopus, inviting us to slow down to the epic pace of glaciers, fossils, and stones even as we remain firmly planted in “the hour of the brutal present.” Through her elegiac queer eco-poetics, Giragosian holds vigil for all that is and will be lost while still finding hope for the future embedded in each of nature’s miracles; of the peacock, she writes: “Maybe we can learn to be beautiful too.” If so, it will be thanks to poems like these."

—Alyse Knorr, author of Ardor (2023), Mega-City Redux (2017), Copper Mother (2016), and

                            Annotated Glass (2013)

“I need to believe in vigilant mothers,” writes Sarah Giragosian. Lookout for the hidden mother, alert and secretly attending. Lookout for her protective care. The mother proliferates within Giragosian’s lyrics. Mother Octopus seeks the vestiges of a hawk-eyed motherhood who survives disappearance, returning as the riddle of mercy, a salve for this age of “nuclear fallout and extinction.” It is a book of possibilities, observations, and intersections, in which unexpected threads come together because we yearn and love in a world of racism, xenophobia, unfreedom, and environmental decline. Giragosian’s poems are seated in a fractured space where attention to the present unfolding of disasters interacts with the onslaught of memory. These poems depart from the sadness and the incapacities of language yet rescue words claiming them in the name of love and grief. This is a medicinal book of brilliant openings toward expectancy, of lyrics that surgically dig us out of collapse and risk a fearless retrieval of love writ large. These poems mother our losses.

—Isabel Sobral Campos, author of Your Person Doesn’t Belong to You and How to Make Words

                                               of Rubble



Sarah Giragosian is the author of the poetry collections Queer Fish, a winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize (Dream Horse Press, 2017), and The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). This year the University of Akron Press published Sarah's co-edited anthology Marbles on the Floor: How to Arrange a Book of Poems. Sarah's writing has appeared in such journals as Pleiades, Ecotone, Tin House, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She teaches at the University at Albany-SUNY.

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