Poetry and nature writing merge in Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders

By |2024-04-03T21:33:41-05:00April 4th, 2024|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Aimee Nezhukumatathil started planning for the total eclipse last July.

The renown poet and author will be spending April 8 with her family in the path of totality near Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. They’ve rented a lakeside cabin and plan to park their phones and cameras in order to fully experience the awe and wonder of the unique celestial event.

“I just want to be able to look at my parents’, my children’s and my husband’s faces when we’re in that eerie beautiful darkness…just soak it all in,” said Nezhukumatathil by phone earlier this week.

Nezhukumatathil is well acquainted with awe and wonder. She explores those exact  feelings in her first work of nonfiction, World of Wonders, In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments.

Nezhukumatathil, or “Dr. Nez,” as her students in the English department at the University of Mississippi where she teaches call her, will be in San Antonio next week for the Gemini Ink Authors Luncheon and San Antonio Book Festival. Details below for the FREE and paid ticketed events.

Enchanting color drawings and 31 profiles of unique and fascinating plants and animals fill the pages of Dr. Nez’s 165-page book, which offers lessons to all in accepting ourselves, others, and the world.

In her essay about the Mimosa pudica, known as the “Touch Me Not” plant, the New York Times bestselling author describes its most notable trait.

When touched, the plant recoils with a shake and a shutter.

This biological reaction inspires Dr. Nez. She writes how she wishes that she, too, could shut down and shake off predators.

“What a thrill that could be: Touch me not on the the dance floor…let me and my children and everyone’s children decide who touches them and who touches them not, touch them not touch them not.”

Her poetic essays constitute the opposite of anthropomorphizing as she consistently attributes the qualities and behaviors of plants and animals to human beings.

What if we could regenerate our body parts and smile in the face of extinction like the axolotl? Or disappear into a cloud of our own mucous when threatened like the vampire squid? What if  we could magically find our way “home” to a place we’ve never been like the monarch butterfly?

Born to a Filipina mother and South Indian father, Nezhukumatathil views nature and the world from the perspective of a person of color.

In one chapter, she shares how an elementary school animal drawing contest in which she chose to draw the peacock, the national bird of India, provoked shaming and shunning from her teacher.

Nezhukumatathil offers FREE, downloadable coloring sheets of her featured creatures on her author website. Here, the axolotl. — Courtesy photo

“Some of us will have to start over and draw American animals,” the teacher chastised. “We live in Ah-mer-i-kah!”

The teacher then advised 8-year-old Aimee, who had just returned from visiting family and lots of peacocks in India. There, she had become entranced by the bright teal feathers of the showy birds. And yet her teacher scolded her. “Looks like you need a do-over!”

Nezhukumatathil eventually drew an American Eagle and won the drawing contest.

Nezhukumatathil weaves magic with this collection which encourages us to pay closer attention to all living creatures in the world around us. The illustrations, by Fumi Mini Nakamura, are charming and accurate.

It’s hard not to wonder how the author came up with the list of life she chronicles in such enchanting detail. Join me in San Antonio next week and we’ll ask her when I moderate a talk with her on

Thursday, April 11, 7 PM, at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The event is FREE and open to the public, but registration is requested. RSVP here.

On Friday, April 12,  11:30 AM – 1:30 PM Nezhukumatathil will be the keynote speaker at the Gemini Ink Author Luncheon. Tickets and info here.

On Saturday, April 13, 10am-1pm, she’ll lead a writing workshop at Gemini Ink, The Edge of the Sea is a Strange and Beautiful Place: Hybrid Poetry & Prose Experiments. Tickets and info here. 

And on Saturday, April 13, 4 PM – 4:45 PM, Nezhukumatathil will participate in a FREE  panel discussion at the San Antonio Book Festival. Info here. 

Bring your book to be signed, or buy one at the above events.

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  1. Dee April 4, 2024 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Monika, Thank you for this interesting and uplifting post! I just ordered the book and I look forward to reading it.
    I wish I could meet the author in San Antonio but I am far away in California…… Best, Dee

  2. Connie weinholtz April 9, 2024 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    For 8 years i have been raising migrating monarchs in Sugarland, Texas and i get hundreds of eggs during March. This year i have NO MIGRATORS and NO EGGS!! This is not a good sign and very distressing!!

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