Ethan Goffman’s Words for Things Left Unsaid: Looking Backward, Looking Ahead

Ethan Goffman’s new book of poems, Words for Things Left Unsaid, provides an epic recounting of human history in verse — both mythical and real — mapping out how our profligate use of natural resources has gotten us into the environmental bind we are in today. Goffman is a long-time contributor to E/The Environmental Magazine and EarthTalk, both as a writer and podcaster. If you like poetry and consider yourself an environmentalist, you’ll love this read.

“Ethan Goffman takes on the big questions with a light touch—is there a god; could [she] be a cat named Thelma? Does the rabbit a hare’s-breadth away have a soul? And is there anything we can do for our crimes against the animal kingdom except apologize? His laconic lines comment pungently on our mixed-up relationship to the planet. I particularly enjoy the aphorisms that punctuate the text: ‘We did not borrow this world from our children, / We stole it from the Native American ancestors.'”

—Alice Major, first poet laureate of Edmonton, Alberta

“Ethan Goffman sets the stage with a sardonic swipe at humanity when he says, “Whether we face / nuclear winter / or climate change summer / how capable we humans are at finding / ways to destroy ourselves.” Throughout his book, Goffman not only engages with dada-like wordplay, but, as a poet who loves paradox, he is indeed a mind-bender: “A tree falling in a forest / hasn’t really fallen / until someone comes across it / in which case it has.” Goffman tackles both pedestrian and profound subjects alike, often turning them on their heads with deft originality. With Words for Things Left Unsaid, a surprise erupts around every corner, and Ethan Goffman is your guide through this delightful house of mirrors.”

—Alan Britt, author of Lost Among the Hours

“The voice of this poet is unforgettable. Whether writing about climate change or cats, Ethan Goffman writes with touches of wisdom and wit, sorrow and sarcasm, humor and humanity. And on their deepest level, these poems reveal how “Layers and currents of history reside in our yard / An ocean of life / Swelling with music.”

—Craig Santos Perez, PEN Center USA Poetry Literary Award Winner