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Innovator Drinks: In Discussion with Alessandra Naccarato

After several years of adapting our community events during COVID, we are thrilled to be bringing them back to their original forms. Innovator Drinks is a seasonal animation event that brings the community together to promote connections between members; to amplify the work and impact of our members; and, in some cases like this one, to bring non-members and their networks, into the space and introduce them to the magic of CSI. We gathered, with snacks and drinks, to discuss our work and celebrate the impact of our community.

Attendees listen as Alessandra Naccarato reads a passage from her book, Imminent Domains, at CSI Annex November 2022 Innovator Drinks.For our November Innovator Drinks, we were lucky enough to host CSI Annex Member and author, Alessandra Naccarato, and our event sponsor, Book*hug Press, to discuss Alessandra’s latest book, Imminent Domains: Reckoning with the Anthropocene. Alessandra joined us to discuss her book, the process of writing at CSI Annex, and advice for ourselves in this changing world.

How would you describe your book, Imminent Domains?

Imminent Domains: Reckoning with the Anthropocene invites readers to join a contemplation of survival—our own, and that of the elements that surround us. Using research, lyric prose, and first-hand experiences, Alessandra Naccarato addresses fundamental questions about our modern relationship to nature amidst depictions of landscapes undergoing dramatic transformation.

We trace the veins of harm, memory and meaning amongst ecosystems and bioregions; through history and across continents, from the mines of Cerro Rico to the ruins of Pompeii. Arranged by five central elements of survival—earth, fire, water, air and spirit—these essays refute linearity, just as nature does. Naccarato offers not blanket answers about our future, but rather myriad ways to find our own, individual response to an imminent question. We are being called to work together; to dig a trench deep and wide enough that the fires around us might stay at bay. How do we turn towards the fire?

What was your process of writing, and how long did you spend completing this book? And can you expand on how it was to write much of it at CSI Annex?

Author Alessandra Naccarato signs a copy of her book, Innovator Drinks, at CSI Annex Innovator Drinks in November 2022.I have been working with the themes, ideas and topics in Imminent Domains for many years. In many ways, this essay collection is a companion book to my poetry collection, Re-Origin of Species, which was released in fall 2019. Re-Origin of Species also contemplates zoonotic illnesses and landscapes undergoing dramatic transitions, and multiple poems have titles that match essays in Imminent Domains. So I’d say I am seeking to have an on-going conversation with the world about radical change, as the world radically changes. It took took me a decade to think through the ideas in the book, and write a few of the initial essays—and when it really came time to write, I wrote for about a year without stopping. During that year, I really lived inside the book and I spent a lot of time at CSI Annex. My creative practice often requires silence and solitude, but at the heart of this book there is a contemplation of connectivity and interdependence—what is emergent and possible in the places where we meet; how we might turn toward this crisis together—and it was powerful to spend time crafting this work in a space where that is actively happening.

There are so many things that compel writers to write and readers to read – what compelled you to write Imminent Domains? And, what do you hope readers will experience?

A lot of environmental reporting skews toward a depoliticized, depersonalized understanding of our changing world. I believe that reckoning with what we are facing requires navigating our grief; feeling the impact on a personal and spiritual level. And that’s the work of the poet, I think—to find language and feeling, maybe even beauty, in what can otherwise seem intangible, distant, other. Understandably, we have a window of tolerance for what we can take in without becoming numb to the state of the world we’re in—and I felt deeply compelled to write into that window, to interweave all my research with vulnerable storytelling to create a kind of meeting place. I hope readers will have a sense of a meeting place, when they read the book. I hope they will be inspired to contemplate their own stories and complex web of relationships, and ultimately, that they leave this book with a sense that those stories matter.

How do you/we take care of ourselves and the planet in this day and age?

A crowd sits at CSI Annex and listens to Alessandra Naccarato discuss her book, Imminent Domains, at Innovator Drinks in November 2022.

I think the answer is different for every person, and that’s a powerful and beautiful thing—that’s how every forest, every ecosystem functions. Every being offers care, and receives care, in a different way. Personally, being present with ecological grief—and the fear, dissociation and numbness that can go with it—has been a crucial first step to being present in this world; to understanding who I am, where I am, and from there, what I can offer to this world as a friend, as a daughter and as a storyteller.

What advice would you give to yourself (and to others) if you were starting the process of writing again?

Always eat breakfast. There is no such thing as perfection. You may be writing this book, but this book is also writing you—trust the process.

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