Born and raised in Florida, Heather Sellers grew up in an extraordinarily difficult home. The natural world provided a life-giving respite from domestic violence. She found, in the tropical flora and fauna, great beauty and meaningful connection. She made her way by trying to learn the name of every flower, every insect, every fish and shell and tree she encountered.
That world no longer exists.
In this collection of poems, Sellers laments its loss, while observing, over the course of a year, daily life of the people and other animals around her, on her street, and in her low-lying coastal town, where new high rises soar into the sky as the storm clouds gather with increasing intensity and the future of the community—and seemingly life as we know it—becomes more and more uncertain.
Sprung from her daily observation journals, haunted by ghosts from the past, Field Notes from the Flood Zone is a double love letter: to a beautiful and fragile landscape, and to the vulnerable young girl who grew up in that world. It is an elegy for the two great shaping forces in a life, heartbreaking family struggle and a collective lost treasure, our stunning, singular, desecrated Florida, and all its remnant beauty.
The guava tree hides its hard, green fruits now—though no one eats
them, not even the rats.
The grand old mango leans so hard to the south—trying to escape late
life ankle-deep in salt water, storm-worn.
Black mildew coats the clay barrel tiles on my roof and every leaf on the
potted lemon tree.
Lacy trees sprout from the gutters. It’s like hair springing from the ears
of a lover.
At night in my bed, almost every night, I dream I’m underwater.
Sometimes I breathe underwater. Sometimes I drown face down.
“Reading Heather Sellers’ new book of poems, I am by turns dazzled, harrowed, fascinated, afraid, and then my mouth falls open coming upon an image or a phrase so lovely and unexpected that I have to close my eyes and let it surround me. Field Notes from the Flood Zone is a book so spectacularly original that you don't just read these poems, you steep yourself in them. What a triumph!”
— Abigail Thomas, author of Safekeeping
“Field Notes from the Flood Zone is a triumph of hard-won vision. Heather Sellers’s South Florida is less travel brochure than tropical storm apocalypse. The land’s menace and music are deftly contained in Sellers’s compulsively readable prose paragraphs, which tell of the speaker’s post-evacuation return to her house where a black snake is ‘rising,/ uncoiling, a leather tube of silent tune.’ The resiliency of the speaker, alongside her wry observational accuracy and metaphorical skill, leave us buoyed even as we reel from her hard truths, such as when the realtor queries, ‘Is the Property located in a Special Hazard Zone?’ and the speaker answers, ‘The property is located on Earth.’”
— Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
“For many years, Heather Sellers has been among the most lyrical and thoughtful chroniclers of Florida, that semi-mythical land of ‘prehistoric fecundities,’ where ‘some nights are made more of water than darkness.’ These are poems full of beautiful images, emotional insights, and pitch-perfect cultural observations— ‘I went to Publix for noodles and Dawn’—but taken together they create something more. Field Notes from the Flood Zone feels like an essential book, an indispensable elegy for what will be lost, in the not-too-distant future, when Florida joins Atlantis beneath the waves.”
— Campbell McGrath, author of XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century
“In her remarkable Field Notes from the Flood Zone, Heather Sellers’s lucid, soaked and shining poems make landfall at the exact place (and cultural moment) between the terrifying push of extreme storms and the pull of continuing to live an ordinary life. Into the tension between dailiness and emergency comes the fresh loneliness of a woman exed out of a love relationship. Evacuation (in every sense) energizes these Florida poems. It’s rare to call such a crafted book a page turner, but Sellers is driven as she connects the spasms of climate upheaval to emotional turmoil—through urgent rhythms and surprising metaphors. In the apocalyptic, yet matter of fact, brilliantly ordered poems of Field Notes from the Flood Zone, Heather Sellers brings both nature and human affections startlingly into the 21st century.”
— Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst: Poems
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2022