2422 investigative poetics

murdered millions of Vietnamese, that leveled
Afghanistan and Iraq, and that has left a world
wide trail of ecological destruction in its path,
one is struck by how relevant and powerful this
poem feels 32 years after its first publication.
A fourth strain of investigative poetry builds
upon the early work of ethnopoetics, yet infuses
it with a stronger sense of anthropological
depth. For example, consider Ivan Bradys
masterful The Time at Darwins Reef (2003).
Whereas the ethnopoets mentioned above
dabbled in studies of ancient and other non
western cultures sometimes veering close to
what could be called nostalgia or nave Orient
alism Brady is an accomplished anthropolo
gist who has studied Pacific Island cultures for
over 25 years, meaning Bradys poems bristle
with a lifetime of research and personal experi
ence. As evidence of the books remarkably
broad sense of time and place, Darwins Reef
closes with an alphabetical Place List and a
chronological Date List, both of which
include information relevant to the other. For
example, the Place List begins with Abaiang
Island, February 14, 1840, closes with
USMCRD, San Diego, California, August
27, 1958, and includes 60 other place/time
entries sandwiched in between. Readers recog
nize from glancing through the Place List and
Date List that Darwins Reef addresses the long
history of naval conquest, beginning for the
purposes of this book in the South Pacific dur
ing the 1840s, culminating in the worlds lar
gest floating arms depot, San Diego, during the
late 1950s, and wreaking havoc on all the places
in between. The Place List and Date List thus
function as semiotic machines of imaginative
yet historically grounded suggestions, produ
cing juxtapositions, layerings, and clues meant
to lead the reader on geographic and temporal
journeys through the wreckage of colonialism
(see Brady 2000).
As in Snyders Turtle Island, Time at
Darwins Reef is less linear than in traditional
historical writings and more like the twisting,
reverberating, ecological, and even spiritual
forms it often takes in folklore. For example,
in the poem that names the book, The Time
at Darwins Reef located with the place and
date listings that preface each poem as Playa
de la Muerte, South Pacific, July 4, 1969
Brady conveys time as High Time, 1:05 p.m.,
Fiji time (local clock time), as Time to Get
Down (from the Cessna flying overhead), as
Island Time (the deep ecological time of nat
ural change), as Copy Time in the coral (the
movements of coral reproduction as seen in
ejaculating rocks), as Magic Time, and so
on, in a dizzying multiplication of possible
times, most of them rooted not in western
notions of clocks, but rather in the natural tem
poral forms of tides, seasons, and life cycles.
Taken together, these layered times indicate
a spiritual sense of completeness, of multiplici
ties woven into an organic whole, of ecological
Lest readers assume that Bradys gorgeous
experiments in temporal confusions lapse into
political complacency, Proem for the Queen of
Spain layers such temporal dislocations
against spatial and political fragments, hence
creating a sense of bitter poetic judgment.
The bulk of the piece is a letter (fictional but
true to its historical moment) from Fernando
Junipero Dominguez, written in New Spain
(Mexico) in 1539, in which the writer thanks
the queen for bringing to his people the
Embrace of the Mission and the Love of God,
Amen. The letter demonstrates how colonized
peoples internalized oppression, in this case in
the form of bowing to a foreign god brought
to the New World by a foreign empire. The
endmatter following the poem provides multi
ple historical references on the history of Dom
inguez, so the poem fulfills the pedagogical
function of both seducing readers to think
historically and then leading them to the neces
sary information to pursue their own further
readings. Tucked within the letter, however,
Brady offers expletive laced commands from
US troops who shout at Vietnamese peasants:
Nam fuckin xuong dat! Lie the fuck down!
Or yall gonna fuckin die! Much like Snyders
juxtaposing of the Anasazi against Nixons
saturation bombing of Vietnamese peasants,
Bradys insertion of dialogue from US soldiers
within a 1539 letter to the queen of Spain
illustrates a sense of continuity linking the
Spanish invasion of Mexico to the US invasion
of Vietnam. Against the deeply satisfying eco
logical times of Time at Darwins Reef, then,
Proem for the Queen of Spain offers a chil
ling sense of imperial time, of the looping repe
titive horrors of conquest.