Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was one of the most famous scientists of the 19th century and is best known today as the co-discoverer, with Charles Darwin, of the theory of evolution through natural selection. Wallace’s life and work are the inspiration for this beautifully considered collection of poems. Why the title? As Anne Cluysenaar explains in her Foreword:
It was during an acute bout of malaria on the volcanic island of Ternate that it ‘flashed upon’ Wallace how life evolves through natural selection … From the local language of Ternate itself, Wallace had borrowed the phrase ‘batu-angas’ to describe the ‘burnt rocks’ or cooled lava he saw there. The phrase struck me as as suitable title for this sequence because it could be said to symbolise the visible world at any one time – a world now, thanks to Wallace and Darwin, known to maintain a seeming stasis only, amid the flowing lava of evolution.
Sign up to the Seren Book Club and save 20%