Last spring, an advance copy of Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss circulated in the Sewanee Review’s offices. Renkl’s loving and attentive book—part memoir, part naturalist’s meditation—captivated our staff. In it, Renkl attends to the natural world right outside her home in Nashville, Tennessee, and reveals to us a paradoxical world—one of fierce competition and exigent interdependence to ensure survival. At the same time, these meditations are scaffolded by her family’s generational migrations, as well as the author’s own migratory movements, from Lower Alabama to Pennsylvania and back to the South.
In this installment of the Sewanee Review Podcast, editor Adam Ross talks to Margaret Renkl about the symbiotic relationship between what humans often think of as “our” world and the natural world that we imagine exists beyond or outside of it. Renkl notes that “we aren’t separate from the natural world; we are creatures subject to the same biological imperatives of the birds and butterflies.” And that this interminglement with the timelessness of nature, as well as its brutality, illuminates what is happening in the world around us.
“Everything that lives is going to die, sometimes a terrible death. Everything that dies is going to be eaten. And that’s undeniable,” Renkl says. “To me it was very comforting to be reminded that what was happening to me in my family life, what was happening to my country politically, was not an anomaly. We are also part of how this brutal world works.”
The Sewanee Review Podcast is recorded in the Ralston Listening Room at the University of the South. It is produced by Hellen Wainaina and edited by Alex Martin with music by Annie Bowers. Don’t miss any of our conversations with some of today’s best writers. Subscribe to the Sewanee Review Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss can be purchased from our friends at Milkweed Books.