Lush with elemental imagery, Aja Couchois Duncan’s Restless Continent communes with a North America that speaks elegiac, celebratory, and melancholic histories human and geological. In this collection, the body of that land and those histories fuses with the body of Duncan’s language, the body of memory, and the physical body. Intertwining English with Ojibwe, this debut collection of poems ominously hails and holds us in its ethereal sound, bearing sharp witness to the ruptures perpetuated by the violences of humanity—bodies and lands colonizing and colonized, naming and othering, stamping life into disappearance—while inviting us to forge with Duncan the mythologies that suffuse her poems with crystalline grace and gratitude.
Vestigial (from the Latin vestigium, meaning “footprint”) tracks a poetic narrative across multiple chronologies and scales—from the personal to the geologic. Following her debut collection Restless Continent (Litmus Press, 2016), Aja Couchois Duncan continues to investigate ecology and heritage as a story of entangled becoming, synchronizing movements of deep time with the transient substance of touch.
As Duncan writes:
“In Vestigial, I am exploring evolution, biomedicine, gender, lust, climate change and loneliness though characters that inhabit multiple places in time. In this way, I am seeking to thread past, present and alternative futures in an effort to understand our current circumstances and envision their likely consequences. The book plumbs multiple disciplines and wisdoms, including geology, astronomy, archeology, ancestry, plant and animal wisdom. Through this grounding of the simultaneity of experience and our multitudinous perspectives, I am attempting to create a more authentic and indigenous narrative about aki, earth, and all of her inhabitants.”
Dorothy Chan reviews Restless Continent @ Woodland Pattern
Allison Conner reviews Restless Continent @ Full Stop
Brenda Ijima in conversation with Aja Couchois Duncan @ Brooklyn Rail
Micro Review by Lesley Wheeler @ Kenyon Review
Megan Fernandes reviews Vestigial @ Poetry Foundation
Vestigial Review @ Rob McLennan’s Blog
- ‘Race against the clock’: the school fighting to save the Ojibwe language before its elders pass away @ The Guardian
- Saving a language from Extinction: Silbo-Gomero, the whistling language @ The New York Times
- Three Americans create enough carbon emissions to kill one person @ The Guardian
- Saving ozone layer has given humans a chance in climate crisis – study @ The Guardian
Aja Couchois Duncan
Aja Couchois Duncan is a social justice coach and capacity builder of Ojibwe, French and Scottish descent who lives on the ancestral and stolen land of the Coastal Miwok people. Her debut collection, Restless Continent (Litmus Press, 2016) was selected by Entropy Magazine as one of the best poetry collections of 2016 and awarded the California Book Award for Poetry in 2017. In 2020, Sweet Land—a collaborative opera project which brought together composers Raven Chacon and Du Yun, librettists Aja Couchois Duncan and Douglas Kearney, and co-directors Cannupa Hanska Luger and Yuval Sharon—was produced in the Los Angeles State Historic Park to critical acclaim. When not writing or working, Aja can be found running the west Marin hills with her Australian Cattle Dog Dublin, training with horses, or weaving small pine needle baskets. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a variety of other degrees and credentials to certify her as human. Great Spirit knew it all along.