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J.P. Grasser

J.P. Grasser is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah.

He is the winner of the first Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize for his poem “Letter to My Great, Great Grandchild.” About his poem, judges Julia Alvarez and Bill McKibben said,

“‘Letter to my Great, Great Grandchild’ is a stirring communiqué both to a specific great great grandchild and to all the children of the future, who might wonder in bafflement: what on earth were our ancestors thinking when they did the damage they have done? The poem’s command of voice and tone—a combination of tenderness and ruefulness laced with terror; its many little surprises—the twists and turns that take the reader to unexpected places; as well as technically, the control of the free verse couplet form—is compelling. By alerting us with specific, vivid, intimate instances as to what might be lost in the future, the poem also delivers its letter to the reader’s door: what will we do to postpone, if not prevent, the end of earth as our home?”

Grasser lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

By This Poet


Letter to My Great, Great Grandchild

               after Matthew Olzmann 

Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos
more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.

We loved honey, just loved it, and went into stores
to smell the sweet perfume of unworn leather shoes.

Did you know, on the coast of Africa, the Sea Rose
and Carpenter Bee used to depend on each other?

The petals only opened for the Middle C their wings
beat, so in the end, we protested with tuning forks.

You must think we hated the stars, the empty ladles,
because they conjured thirst. We didn’t. We thanked

them and called them lucky, we even bought the rights
to name them for our sweethearts. Believe it or not,

most people kept plants like pets and hired kids
like you to water them, whenever they went away.

And ice! Can you imagine? We put it in our coffee
and dumped it out at traffic lights, when it plugged up

our drinking straws. I had a dog once, a real dog,
who ate venison and golden yams from a plastic dish.

He was stubborn, but I taught him to dance and play
dead with a bucket full of chicken livers. And we danced

too, you know, at weddings and wakes, in basements
and churches, even when the war was on. Our cars

we mostly named for animals, and sometimes we drove
just to drive, to clear our heads of everything but wind.