Guidance from the God of Seahorses is a collection of prose poems about Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction. The poems are written as advice columns from a series of Gods, each of whom speaks as the creator of a particular species. Through profiling fifty animals—many threatened or endangered, others thriving weed-like in urban centers—the Gods grapple with pressing environmental issues such as climate change, habitat fragmentation, and the spread of invasive species. Collectively, Guidance offers a “God’s-eye-view” of the Anthropocene that is simultaneously playful and sorrowful, inspiring a renewed sense of gravity about our planet’s vanishing species.
Keats Conley holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Oregon’s Institute of Marine Biology, where she spent six years researching gelatinous plankton. Her research has been published in reputable scientific journals such as Nature Microbiology, PLOS One, and Limnology and Oceanography. Keats now lives in southern Idaho and works as an environmental biologist to assess proposed management actions on fish and wildlife. She enjoys writing poetry as a means of sharing science with a broader audience, particularly to help cultivate a sense of urgency about global biodiversity loss. Guidance from the God of Seahorses is her first book.
"Guidance from the God of Seahorses is guidance from Keats Conley, one of the most astute observers of Nature I have encountered. This book is pure light in a darkening world: Earth psalms. Both poet and scientist, lyricist and inquisitor, Conley speaks directly to and from the essence of each creature, a rarity. The intimacy and delight of these prose poems is a joyous embrace and affirmation of who we live among. Keats Conley writes with fresh attention, humor, and knowledge. This book of poetry is a testament to wonder, our awakening to a brilliant new voice, anticipated, needed and necessary. If hope is an energy field passed on from one generation to the next, Guidance from the Gods of Seahorses is born out of this lineage of hope and love." —Terry Tempest Williams
"Keats Conley's book Guidance from the God of Seahorses, features many animals, each of which has a creator-god of its own who speaks to his creation poetically. The messages spoken by the gods are witty and serious, playful, insightful from various angles; a scientific fact appears occasionally, a rare, mysterious word now and then, metaphors, a little slang. These brief, tightly written pieces are unique and totally engaging overall. Conley has taken some exciting risks in this book and come through a winner." —Pattiann Rogers
"If Adam was the first poet, naming the creatures of the garden, it might have been Keats Conley in an early incarnation of Eve who gave them access to their souls. This is a modern bestiary of the overlooked, the disenfranchised, the disregarded. No sentimentalist, Conley is like Coyote in her opening piece, the trickster figure who can nuzzle your nose one moment and chew the leg off your assumptions the next. A reader is not safe anywhere in these pages. Conley combines the sensibility and vocabulary of a scientist with a willful refusal to ignore the very human inclination toward empathy and compassion. Read as many of these poems out loud as you can. Conley has an exquisite ear for sound, for the taunting tarantellas of the tongue, loving alliteration, assonance, the sly dance partner of unobtrusive rhyme. This is a book to admire for craft and nerve and spirit." — Samuel Green, first poet laureate, state of Washington