EX-posed: Animal Elegies

by Gordon Meade



Foreword by Jo-Anne McArthur.

Scottish poet Meade’s second volume of poems reflecting on the lives of animals as photographed by award-winning photographer Jo-Anne McArthur.

Following on from Zoospeak, Scottish poet Gordon Meade’s reflections on the lives of animals in zoos and aquaria as photographed by Toronto-based award-winning photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur and gathered in her book CaptiveEX-posed turns its attention to McArthur’s 2020 curated collection HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene. Organized into seven sections that cover the experiences of nonhuman animals in factory farms, industrial fisheries, live markets, entertainment, religion, fashion, and amid the climate crisis, each of Meade’s poems takes the form of an elegy “penned” by the nonhuman animals who, due to many different circumstances, find themselves on death row. As with the source material in HIDDEN, the tenor of EX-posed is direct and unapologetic, with each poem attempting to capture the essence of the creatures and the horrific situations in which they find themselves.

“Juxtaposed against violent images of animals and their deaths, Gordon Meade’s poems showcase the tortured and unnecessary loss not only of animal life but of animals’ joy, culture, and beauty too. Read in succession these poems offer a simple, but scathing account of the numerous ways in which animals’ bodies, pride, and homes are destroyed by humans’ seemingly insatiable, varied, and violent means of consuming them. Gordon’s words strike the tone of sadness we should all be feeling at how much has been lost and the prevalence of our continued violent relations with animals. I’ll be churning over these words and images for some time”—Claudia Hirtenfelder, host of the Animal Turn Podcast.

“With artful simplicity and heartbreaking persistence, the poems in EX-posed march into our hearts like carpenter ants. Their rhythms lay down a drum beat that synchronizes with the thud of our heart, the tap of claws on bars, the drip of blood from a hanging carcass. This is a collection we can complete in a single reading yet the poems within the covers will stay with us forever as a reminder of our humanity and the responsibility that brings. The insistence of each line will beat inside us every time we encounter a nonhuman species, whether behind a fence, inside a cage or on a plate. These poems and the difficult truths that the photographs they accompany illustrate warn us we are animals too and that it’s time to end the suffering we’re causing our fellow earth-mates.”—Joanna Lilley, poet & author

“These are words that can unravel you, these are words that can remake you.”—Dr. Richard Twine (he/him), Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences, Department of History, Geography and Social Science (HiGSS), Co-Director of Centre for Human/Animal Studies (CfHAS)

“Having broken new ground in writing about nonhuman animals with Zoospeak’s formal experiments, Gordon Meade and Jo-Ann McArthur return with a fresh triumph, EX-posed. Deeply ingrained stereotypes, which imagine living animals to be nothing more than resources, toys, garbage, or cute ornaments for ‘our’ world, are the veils we humans draw

over who nonhumans really are and how they actually live and suffer. In collaboration with vivid images from McArthur’s multi-photographer project, Hidden, Meade’s poems quietly but relentlessly draw back those veils. Another radical project from a poetic innovator and an indefatigable photojournalist, EX-posed will warm your heart and leave you shattered.”—Mandy-Suzanne Wong, author of Listen, we all bleed

“Many of the photographs depict the tragic loss of the animal gaze, especially when eyes look back at us, but the elegies recuperate creaturely embodiment even as death lurks in the shadows. Together the images and poems dramatize that human instrumentalising of animals across national borders, ecological zones, religions and customs is irredeemable.”—Wendy Woodward, Professor Emerita, Department of English, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa