Having worked in a range of investigative fields—including journalism, biology and medicine—Monica Kidd is habitually inquisitive and observant, and her poetry employs this exacting eye to map each new terrain she encounters. While the vantage points, locales and subjects of Chance Encounters with Wild Animals cover a considerable range, the poems find common cause in their spirited testing of what is observed against the native intelligence of the heart.
The poems are gathered into four sections. In ‘Curious’ they depict a speaker working through grief after the death of a parent. The poems of ‘Meeting the Eyes of the World’ are rooted in Kidd’s month-long trip to Antarctica, where she lectured on the natural and cultural history of the polar south. ‘Chance Encounters with Wild Animals’ considers both wilderness-dwelling creatures and the unexpected happenings of our everyday lives. And in ‘Westerlies’ the preoccupation moves toward curiosity, but also absence and longing.
Diverse as they at first seem, a common thread through the poems is Kidd’s interest in various kinds of exile. Whether chosen or imposed, the distance exile places between us and our familiar world inevitably opens possibilities for discovery. Writing with the fresh, direct language of a trained observer, Kidd’s accounts of fascinating, seldom-visited places (like a Gentoo penguin colony) and of historical figures manage to reenergize our curiosity about Antarctic dwellers, adventurers and exotic destinations.
But the animating effect of exile’s distancing extends to seeing the domestic landscape in new ways as well, whether it be encountered in the loss of a family member, in the subtle shifting of a Newfoundland wharf, or in an immigrant’s quest for precisely the right English word for an everyday object. In the tension between familiarization and estrangement, Kidd’s poems often make a home of two places at once without quelling longing.