Half elegy, half ode, this beautiful book follows the course of the Colorado River, one of the great rivers of the North American West, from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains through the canyons and histories it has sculpted to its final giving-up in the Sonora desert. Our dams and diversions, sustenance to life as we know it, are also a death grip on the river; its fate, as these riveting poems make newly felt, is our own.
In following the course of the Colorado River, Ephemeral Waters incorporates fragments drawn from historical documents, films, interviews and personal conversations, with sharply defined observations of its natural and man-made environments. These are carried along by Middleton’s flexible command of rhythm, which responds to both the vitality of the Colorado River and its degradation, and to the exaltation, enjoyment and despair of those who live by it. The result is a polyphonic poem, both local and global in scope, embodying an Australian preoccupation with water in taking the over-taxed Colorado as a prophetic example of a river system in crisis.