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Bright Specimen

Bright Specimen

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By Julie Poole

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

A poetic botanical index, Julie Poole’s debut collection explores the history and science of human interaction with the natural world.

Paperback: 9781646050574

eBook:  9781646050581


With the loving eye of an amateur botanist, poet Julie Poole has distilled nature to its finest, tender points. Through poems spread delicately across the page, interspersed with images of the pressed flowers themselves, Poole’s poetry gives voice to a meditative expression of flora. Each poem creates an individual cataloged world through which to explore the body, sexuality, strength, and a devout refusal to admit the separation between humans and nature. Inspired by the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the largest herbaria in the Southwestern United States, Bright Specimen weaves together a written index through the harmony of botanical wonder.

Listen to Julie Poole discuss Bright Specimen on 100 W Corsicana podcast Rope Walker!

Biographical Note

Julie Poole was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her first book of poems, Bright Specimen, was inspired by the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at The University of Texas at Austin. She has received scholarships and fellowship support from the James A. Michener Center, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and Yaddo. In 2017, she was a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature. Her poems and essays have appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, CutBank, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her growing collection of found butterflies.


"Poole makes majesty out of the diminutive." —Megan Fernandes, Harriet Books (Poetry Foundation)

“I loved being held by Bright Specimen's gentle intimacy and delight, its organic shapes and speech. Reading this book feels like entering a sunlit room of clear-voiced women, where ‘suddenly it seems possible / no harm will come to anyone.’What could be so fragile and unafraid as an herbarium flower? Only a poet as attuned as Julie Poole could filter the world through such bright souls.”—Taisia Kitaiskaia, author of The Nightgown and Other Poems

"The poems that comprise Bright Specimen are delicate and tender but also robust, much like their subject matter. Each poem is titled with the Latin scientific name for a flower, but the diction of the poems overall relies mostly on straightforward Germanic diction; formally, this dual presence of Latinate and Germanic words, the twin roots of the English language, creates an atmosphere in Bright Specimen of knowing, of roundness, of a deep but humble understanding of the world. In this collection, Poole addresses themes of femininity, sexuality, and the inextricable connection between the human body and the natural world. “My beauty is nothing in light/but in the dark I’m warm/and lovable,” Poole writes in Narcissus pseudonarcissus; “alone not/so bad when the world/lives with and/inside you,” she writes in Rosa setigera. These poems offer a disorienting, almost violent level of self-awareness, bodily self-awareness; the speaker of these poems knows too well the strangeness of inhabiting a human body. Bright Specimen offers clear, elegant poems that engage with the connections between humans and nature." —Annie Diamond, bookseller at Seminary Co-Op (Chicago)