"Pliny and Other Problems" by Emily Fernandez

  • "Pliny and Other Problems" by Emily Fernandez

Pliny and Other Problems starts with the problems of ordinary life – a mother’s midlife crisis – and the doings (and undoings) of aging and loss. In the central poems, Pliny the Elder’s life and tome, Natural History, is playfully explored. Pliny mixes Roman mythology with observations of nature, and these poems build little narratives with his bizarre imagery. Nature is instructive and absurd, and the last section, “Supplications,” contemplate the ways it demands our attention and awe. Though life in late-stage capitalism, aka the Anthropocene, is uncertain at best, and catastrophic at worst, it doesn’t mean one cannot find some joy.

Like messages in bottles washed ashore, the poems in Emily Fernandez’s Pliny and Other Problems feel miraculous. They movingly catalog moments of the speaker’s life as well as the forms of life on the edge of California—mixing vignettes from adolescence and young love to marriage and motherhood, and celebrating the natural world in the midst of the pandemic and climate change. Balancing dark humor with hope, profanity with praise, this collection is “teaching us the surprise / of survival.” I feel restored at the end of this book, and brought closer to the wonder of being human right now.
—Michelle Brittan Rosado, author of Why Can’t It be Tenderness
In her poetry chapbook, Pliny and Other Problems, Emily Fernandez takes an honest look at the multi-headed beast that is life as an adult in an increasingly uncertain world.  Sometimes with humor (“A Serious Case of Jazz Hands”), and sometimes with a chilling honesty (“…extinction has it out for even the coolest of us”), her poetry is equal parts lyrical, beautifully descriptive, and brutally honest about the world we share.
—Tim Hatch, author of Wild Embrace 
In Pliny and Other Problems, Emily Fernandez conspires with the natural world to uncover earth’s mysteries and postpone the apocalypse. Whether buried in the backyard or beneath glacial ice, like a Michelangelo of words Fernandez cuts away the chaff. No, Pliny, salamanders cannot put out fire, nor does a naked menstruating woman have preternatural curative powers. But these false narratives can be deconstructed, rebuilt. Yes, we are mortal, but before that, we are alive—and these poems thrum with possibility. If one is to drown, better it to be by one’s own hand and not forced by another’s. And yet, these poems, in every way, feel like love.
—Cati Porter, author of small mammals and Novel
Fernandez’s gorgeous poetry was made for this time. She explores the often treacherous edges of motherhood and womanhood, offering grace and humor. She also resists apocalypses, both ancient and current, real and imagined. As such, her insistence on hope and tender compassion is a balm to the weary twenty-first century soul.
—E. Katherine Kottaras, author of How to Be Brave and A Rainbow Inside My Body
The poems in Emily Fernandez's Pliny and Other Problems intrigue and delight, touching on love, loss, and nature to domesticity, family, and the impact of the pandemic. Her work is highly literary, yet also deeply personal and approachable. It's rooted in place, painting a landscape of Californian life, and displays a light, deft touch, a keen wit, and an unsentimental, yet affectionate, eye. In every poem, her intellect and voice breaks through, plunging her words deep into our hearts and minds. Her words will stay with you, the images lingering for days. This collection is a beautiful, soul sustaining, deeply spiritual piece of literary prowess that transcends and transports us to a place where only she can take us.
—Juanita E. Mantz, author of Tales of an Inland Empire Girl and Portrait of a Deputy Public Defender or how I became a punk rock lawyer
Emily Fernandez’s latest collection of undeniably California poems in Pliny and Other Problems magically merge the inner and outer worlds we inhabit through resplendent imagery teeming with the beauty of nature and its attendant chaos. As an Angeleno, mother, teacher, writer, and human gravely concerned about the planet, I found myself drawn personally to each poem in this collection and wholly grateful that I was invited into this garden of existential delights where hope and wonder—as tenuous as they may be sometimes—still abound. These incisive poems provide an unflinching examination of everything from motherhood to death to climate change to romantic love to politics to feminism while giving us a regenerative framework with which to view it all. We should all be so enamored with the beauty of our world to tend to it –and to language—the way Fernandez does.
—Simona Supekar, author of forthcoming book Stock Photo

Check out the video trailer:

Reading: Emily Fernandez

Direction/Editing: Dennis Callaci

Score: Dennis Callaci with Simon Dsouza on Saxophone

This new book is more playful, more neurotic, and sometimes just weird. It’s more true to my voice.

Interview with Emily Fernandez, ShoutoutLA

June 12, 2023

Emily Fernandez

Emily Fernandez is an Associate Professor of English at Pasadena City College and the author of the chapbook Procession of Martyrs (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Her poems have been published in SHIFT, Antithesis Journal, Black Fork Review, Pangyrus, The Dewdrop, Angel City Review, Tiny Seed Journal and others. She lives in El Sereno, an eastside neighborhood in Los Angeles, with her family, and she spends her Saturday mornings at the beach. She writes, teaches, prays, protests, and tends to her loved ones, animals, and plants. She does none of this with much patience or grace, but she is still learning.

Website: emily-fernandez.weebly.com

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Tags: poetry;aging;mythology;nature