It’s National Poetry Month (in the U.S. and Canada), so it seems as good a time as any to review this massive anthology. Actually, I’ve been reading this book for almost a year, and just finished it recently.
I’m not a huge poetry fan, but I am a fan of ecology and enjoy most things that bring awareness to the beauty of our planet, so when I saw this title, I requested a review copy from the publisher. Again…it’s been almost a year since I started this, but look … it’s 672 pages thick, and it’s poetry! I could only read this is in small chunks, a few days at a time.
As is often the case with any anthology, there were some works that were absolute gems for me, and some works that I couldn’t relate to in any way. For the most part, though, I found the bulk of poems to be fair. Oddly enough, the works that I generally didn’t care for were those which were the most prose-like … free-form, run-on sentences creating entire paragraphs. I think I tend to enjoy my poetry simpler and more ‘traditional.’
Among the works that capture my interest are:
“Legacy” by Elizabeth Bradfield with the line: “It’s the same now as it was with Oedipus, poor stiff, running to escape his fate and running smack dab into it, an awful scene, a nightmare warning we need to keep repeating because, of course, fate never seems immediate.”
“The Earth is a Living Thing” by Lucille Clifton
“The Rain in Maine” by Stephen Cushman
“For I will Consider the Overlooked Dragonfly” by Sharon Dolin
Peter Gizzi’s “Human Memory is Organic”
From She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo, “V. Explosion” which, with extreme simplicity, spoke volumes. The clear Native American imagery is perfect for an ecopoetry collection.
Some of the work by Robert Hass was beautiful (“Poetry should be able to comprehend the earth…”).
Galway Kinnell is the only name I ever mention if someone asks me to name my favorite poet, and his poem here, “The Bear,” is remarkable. Again… volumes of imagery in simplicity.
W.S. Merwin’s “For a Coming Extinction” speaks directly to the anticipated disappearance of a fellow creature of our planet. I was probably more moved by this brief verse than by any of the others.
I loved this passage from Patricia Smith’s “5 P.M., Tuesday, August 23, 2005”:
I will require praise,
unbridled winds to define my body,
a crime behind my teeth
every woman begins as weather,
sips slow thunder, knows her hips. Every woman harbors a chaos, can
wait for it, straddling a fever.
Pamela Uschuk’s poem “Snow Goose Migration at Tule Lake” appears to be about as traditional as one can get without a rhyme scheme, and it was brilliant. I could picture every moment I could almost visualize a Francis Lee Jacques painting illustrating this.
“Bamboo” by Joel Weishaus may be the briefest poem in the collection, but it educated me and it made me chuckle. What more can you ask?
The last of my favorites is Susan Settlemyre Williams’ “Johnny Appleseed Contemplates Heaven.” The comparisons and contrasts of heaven and earth, between God and Johnny Appleseed are beautifully managed and speak so well to ecology and the natural world.
If you’re a poetry lover, than this needs to be one of the poetry books on your reading shelf. If you’re not a poetry fan, like me, you should still find plenty to enjoy. Take it slow. Read only a poem a day. You won’t regret it.
I purchased a copy and gave it as a gift this past Christmas.
Looking for a good book? This anthology is full of poems that speak to the earth, nature, and man’s place in it. It’s worth a read.
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The Ecopoetry Anthology
editors: Ann Fisher-Wirth & Laura-Gray Street
introduction: Robert Hass
publisher: Trinity University Press
paperback, 672 pages