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Transparent Mountain by Loss Pequeño Glazier
Night Horn Books, 2022.
ISBN 978-0-941842-09-9
John Charles Ryan reviews

Transparent Mountain

by Loss Pequeño Glazier

                        frolicking as if each day were
                        a syntax of a first tendril
                        of wind-syrinx song.


In American poet Loss Pequeño Glazier’s latest poetry collection, Transparent Mountain, an effulgence of language traces the exuberance of nature as the poet-observer becomes an embodied participant in the vibrant Earth-community of the Great Smoky Mountains. The rich linguistic terrains of Transparent Mountain bring the region’s distinctive biota to life with more-than-human consciousness, intention and communication writ large on the page. Deeply bioregional in outlook, Glazier’s writing attends perceptively to the animals, plants, fungi, rocks, water and weather of the Smokies, foregrounding historical and contemporary nature-culture intersections in the mountainous Southeastern United States. Anchored in the ecological materiality of the Smokies yet cognizant of global environmental currents, Transparent Mountain remains faithful to the transcendent possibilities of encountering more-than-human life with an ethos of sympathetic mindedness: “We are all a single intertwined thought” (11).

Located along the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the American Southeast, the Great Smoky Mountains is a range within the broader Appalachian system extending thousands of kilometres from Alabama to Newfoundland, Canada. Also known as the Smoky Mountains or Smokies, the region has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fleeing environmental upheaval during the Last Glacial Period roughly 20,000 years ago, animals and plants found refuge in the Smokies, resulting in the prominent biodiversity witnessed today. Transparent Mountain reminds us that the area in focus is a refugium, understood ecologically as a place harbouring an extant population of formerly widespread species. Indeed, ninety-five percent of the land is forested. Of this dense cover, one-quarter is mature and undisturbed, constituting the largest old-growth forests east of the Mississippi River. Despite its predominantly arboreal character, the region features unique grassy and heath balds, a Southern Appalachian descriptor for mountain summits and crests cloaked in native grasses and shrubs. What’s more, the adjective smoky refers to the haze from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by vegetation, especially during the summer (Linzey). VOCs such as isoprene similarly lend the characteristic blue fog to the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Eastern United States and the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.

This is the biological, ecological and geological grounding of Transparent Mountain. In the tradition of Robinson Jeffers and other place-immersed writer-ecologists, the bioregion delineates the parameters of the poet’s lexical explorations. Born in Texas, Glazier is a multilingual, multimodal poet whose previous work includes Luna Lunera: Poems al-Andalas (Night Horn Books, 2020) and Anatman, Pumpkin Seed, Algorithm (Salt, 2003), both of which bring digital code and computer programming to bear on linguistic novelty and poetic innovation. Luna Lunera is the outcome of a ten-year experimentation with print poetry, digital code and performance texts. His study, Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries (Alabama, 2002), moreover, is the first book-length examination of the potential of digital poetry to reconfigure the very act of textual composition, “From hypertext to visual/kinetic text to writing in networked and programmable media” (Glazier Digital Poetics 1). Through this interaction of creative and critical modalities, Glazier has been at the “forefront of the digital poetics movement” (Bruehl 28). With poet Charles Bernstein in 1994, he cofounded the Electronic Poetry Center at The State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition to poetry publications and criticism, his digital project White-Faced Bromeliads on 20 Hectares (1999) is a JavaScript-based “investigation of literary variants” that produces a new text every ten seconds on the linguistic and ecological systems of Costa Rica (Glazier “White-Faced”). Also integrating poetry and code, Io Sono at Swoons (2002) is a further example of the programmable literature genre advanced by Glazier.1  

Transparent Mountain was published by Night Horn Books, a San Francisco independent press resolutely directed by poet, novelist and editor Robert Anbian (1949–2022), ultimately released in North Carolina by The collection comprises nine elemental sections: Knob, River, Light, Rock, Island, Cove, Ocean, Ridge and Stars. Throughout the work, intertextual allusions disclose a vast poetic-intellectual pedigree, from eighth-century Chinese poet Li Bai and thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist priest and poet Eihei Dōgen to William Wordsworth, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Nan Shepherd and other alpine writers. The collection tracks balletically between lineated and prose poetry. A distinguishing element of the work is its organic mise-en-page, generating a textual ecology optically evoking the ancient species and deep-time habitats of the Smokies. Consider, for instance, how the use of spatial caesura intergrades with the actual speciation unfolding within and around the fissures of Appalachian geological forms:

The slopes are a living gallery     where paintings continuously        change hues from       
  luminous lysergic Stonewall        Jackson indigenous azalea         to lucid perch flesh.
  André Michaux   frolics among       seeds  and  flowery            Appalachian alpine leaf.
    Michaux’s sumac, Rhus michauxii     a rare species of          flowering plant, a cashew.


Caesuric pause punctuates the nearly impenetrable forest cover, enabling solar energy to nourish the undergrowth. For highly shade-intolerant Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii), these breaking points in the text are especially poignant. Endemic to the Southeast, the species is imperiled by habitat degradation, fire suppression and limited genetic variability. Inhabiting granite soils in wooded areas, Michaux’s sumac requires gaps—caesura—in the overstory in order to harvest sunlight and photosynthesise. The oscillation between ecological diction and organic mise-en-page encourages polyscalar engagement with the text evocative of immersive interaction with a habitat—from the proximal reading of diminutive flora (seeds, flowers, leaves) to the distal observation of geological phenomena (slopes, cliffs, prospects). Over the course of Transparent Mountain, textual gradients and fissures generate corporeal response in readers given real-time insight into the poet’s own negotiations of space and time in the Smokies.      

Threading through the collection’s nine autochthonous movements is the transparent mountain. This koan-like figure signifies the harmonisation of contradictory forces in the dialectical tradition of Daoism—fullness within emptiness, multiplicity within singularity, corporeality within immateriality, the noumenal within the phenomenal, all interweaving within the delimitations of the bioregion. The intellectual essence of the transparent mountain is the interdependent nature of existence in which the binaristic categories of everyday thought dissolve: “Soundless echoes sing of transparent mountain” (97). Meditative absorption in the Smokies engenders intermountain consciousness, transporting the reader across time and space to the globe’s other sacred peaks, both tangible (Tiantai Mountain) and cosmological (Mount Meru). As the poet discovers, “That transparent emptiness is solid. It is ‘not-thought’, breath-space, mind itself” (4). The entwining of ecology, poetry and breath mediates the enigmatic absent-presence of transparent mountain:

                                                                                                     Accordingly, breath

is visible here. Leaves effervesce goldenrod, orange jewelweed flower, sorrel,
butterfly-weed, Lobelia cardinalis, that turns forests translucent. That is why you

see through ridges. They are transparent mountains, living epidermis. As if your
skin were a pane through which organs visibly hum and whir inside you. Delicate

precision of internal processes, interdependent, in inner awe. The solitary ‘I’ is
now displaced. Thus:
                                   I think, therefore I ‘is’ multiple.


With ecopoetic elan, these lines from ‘Knob’ call attention to the symbiotic pulse of breath between poet and botanical kin. Goldenrod, jewelweed, sorrel and butterfly-weed are the metabolic inspirators of place. In a rhapsodic Whitmanesque celebration of inter-relationality—lines spreading freely like mycelium across white space—the inner body (singular) becomes outer bodies (plural), the “I ‘is’ multiple”. As later declaimed, “Thus, the transparent mountain: the multiple made visible” (108).  

A compelling feature of Transparent Mountain is its movement through heterogeneous timescapes and temporal scales. Emerging between 200 and 300 million years ago, the Great Smoky Mountains ranks as one of the world’s oldest ranges. The bioregion’s deep temporality accordingly registers on a visceral basis in “low inhalations lasting 10,000 years each” (2). Granitic forms archive events transpiring over millionennia or millions of years, confounding a comparatively limited view of time based on centuries or millennia:

                        The material archive of what passed here,
                             not books, not microfilm, not data storage
                                   but the geological register – slabs of rock –.


The textual engendering of deep time pivots to a great extent on the mythologised figure of the Niobraran Sea. Also known as the Western Interior Seaway or Cretaceous Seaway, the Niobraran Sea was an immense inland water body bifurcating the North American continent into two landmasses, Laramidia to the west and Appalachia to the east. Between the Late Cretaceous (100 Ma) and the Paleocene (66 Ma), the primordial sea connected the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. In Transparent Mountain, the Niobraran is an elusive presence—a palpable absence—driving the poetry’s temporal orientation: “No longer a thalassic body, the ocean has now turned transparent, its ghost-dreamy surface turned to air” (78). From this contemplation of deep time afforded by the sea, the poetry turns to embrace the immanence of the present, vivified by bioluminescent fungi and the photosynthetic denizens of the Smokies.         

However, this ancient provenance of the Smokies—in large part giving rise to its biodiversity—contrasts sharply to recent human impacts at local, regional and global scales. In the new materialist sense of transcorporeality theorised by Stacy Alaimo (111–41), human and more-than-human bodies mutually express the consequences of ecological contamination:

Our own bodies bear scars of violence to the planet, tumor-fish awash in debris, particulates, waste, toxins. Wildfires, floods, cyclones, UV carcinomas.


In the Appalachians, a particularly pernicious environmental scarring results from surface coal mining at the crest or summit of a mountain, commonly described as mountaintop removal mining. Short-term economic imperatives defile the deep-temporal order: “But we, blasting crowns off billion-year-old-peaks, turn native ecotones to coal-fired capital” (25). As the collection progresses, the critique of environmental degradation intensifies, exposing the colonial underpinnings of ecological and cultural disequilibrium. More precisely, fear of native forests, or arborphobia, is one factor among many underlying the despoliation of sacred mountainscapes:   

  Colonists feared trees. For them, forests harbored perils,
hindered roadways.   Forests were the haunt of ‘savages’.

    They clear-cut the woods, depleted the soil, in Faith
                such bounty was theirs for pillaging.
They felled the twelve-story, 14-foot diameter American
                              Chestnut, Cherokee
                        ‘Grandfather of the Forest’.


In this highly nuanced, temporally-plural way, the collection achieves a balance between the material concerns of the conservationist and the emancipatory spirit of the ecoflâneur.

Traversing timescapes, rooted in ecology and illuminating the complexities of place, Loss Pequeño Glazier’s Transparent Mountain contributes uniquely to the North American ecopoetic tradition: “Here, you enter the heart-spirit landscape” (109). The work is available at:


  1. The poems in Luna Lunera all have dance versions with videos accessible from Glazier’s  author page ( Similarly, other versions of the digital poems “Bromeliads” and “Io Sono At Swoons” are available there, as well as the short film, Media Naranja, with video excerpts of readings.


Alaimo, Stacy. Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times. University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Bruehl, Thalia A-M. “Technology’s Poet.” Hispanic Executive, Jul/Aug, 2011, pp. 28–29.

Glazier, Loss Pequeño. “White-Faced Bromeliads on 20 Hectares.” Electronic Literature Collection, 1999,

—–. Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries. University of Alabama Press, 2001.

Linzey, Donald W. A Natural History Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. University of Tennessee Press, 2008.

Published: September 2023
John Charles Ryan

is adjunct associate professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, adjunct senior research fellow at the Nulungu Institute, Notre Dame University, Australia and adjunct faculty member in Environmental Studies at Susquehanna University in the US. His research focuses on Aboriginal Australian literature, Southeast Asian ecocriticism, the environmental humanities, ecopoetics and critical plant studies. His recent publications include Global Perspectives on Nationalism (2022, Routledge, co-edited), Postcolonial Literature of Climate Change (2022, Brill, co-edited), Environment, Media and Popular Culture in Southeast Asia (2022, Springer, co-edited), Introduction to the Environmental Humanities (2021, Routledge, coauthored), and The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence (2021, Synergetic, co-edited). His poetry collection, Seeing Trees: A Poetic Arboretum (2020, Pinyon, with Glen Phillips), explores the idea of consciousness in plants. In May–June 2022, he was an interdisciplinary writer in residence at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Virginia, United States.

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Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.