Hobart and William Smith Colleges


by Marco Wilkinson

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Marco Wilkinson

"Succession" is part of a larger lyric memoir project. Much of my writing finds its beginnings in my life as a horticulturist/agriculturist/permaculturist, and this piece started with the ecological idea of succession - the way life inexorably moves from bare rock to lichens and mosses to plants and eventually to mature grasslands or forests. Each form gives way to and is subsumed by and forms the matrix for what follows it. This led to thoughts of karma and questions of success. What are the inevitable products of our lives? What are the measures of a life's success? Is what succeeds us our success?

The form is meant to play with succession in all these ways. "0" marks ground level/bare rock, and each succeeding layer is like the evolving ecosystem of succession, one layer becoming the context for the succeeding layer. At the same time that there is this building up, this only happens through the dying of each antecedent into a kind of "soil" or unconscious. The negative numbered layers are a kind of unconscious or underworld of what is "aboveground."

The landscape of the poem is varied and there are breaks in the canopy, contours of form from one layer to another. The words clump here and there to organize their own systems of meaning across layers. My hope is that readers find multiple points of entry, multiple reading strategies.

Marco Wilkinson's work has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Terrain, and Taproot. He is managing editor at Oberlin College Press and teaches courses in sustainable agriculture at Lorain County Community College. He recently graduated from the Stonecoast MFA program.