Alice Major’s most recent long poem, “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” engages with scientific, mythological, and poetic discourse to create a complex reworking of Alexander Pope’s Epistle I from An Essay on Man within the context of contemporary climatic, genetic, and geologic change. Drawing on such apparently disparate sources as Pope, Hinduism, DNA studies, and research on the current global climate crisis, Major paints several dramatically engaging but nevertheless alarming pictures of our present shared condition. Nudging Pope’s Great Chain of Being towards the “chain” of the DNA double helix, she offers a nuanced moral and ethical understanding of what is now often referred to as the anthropocene epoch that invites the reader to consider their own potential response to a shared reality that offers “no ending, happy or otherwise,” exhorting them to “Just play your part,” but not without providing them with valuable guidance for doing so.
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