How to Draw a Rhinoceros, the first book of poems by Canadian writer, scholar, and lawyer Kate Sutherland, mines centuries of rhinoceros representations in art and literature to document the history of European and North American encounters with the animal—from the elephant–rhinoceros battles staged by monarchs in the Middle Ages; the rhinomania that took hold in France and later in Italy in response to the European travels of Clara the ‘Dutch’ Rhinoceros in the mid-1700s; the menageries and circuses of the Victorian era; the exploits of celebrated twentieth-century hunters like Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway; and the trade in rhinoceros horn artefacts that thrives online today. Along the way, it explores themes of colonialism, animal welfare, and conservation.
Sutherland was inspired on this poetic path by Clara, an eighteenth-century rhinoceros she first encountered in porcelain form in an exhibit of ceramic animals at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. This chance experience set her off on a grand quest to learn all she could of Clara’s story, and resulted in a collection that combines Robert Kroetschian documentary poetics with the meticulous research and environmental passion of Elizabeth Kolbert, to successfully examine the centuries-long path of the rhinoceros that’s brought it to the brink of global extinction.
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