Much of my time this week was devoted to an online modern poetry class and submissions, but I have been reading two ecopoetry collections that are worth mentioning. Entanglements is from the UK (Two Ravens Press, edited by David Knowles and Sharon Blackie), and it is a beautiful book featuring work by Ruth Padel, Jorie Graham, Catherine Owen, Isabel Galleymore, and so many other poets I am discovering. At 186 pages it is a great size to carry along. The stated focus of Entanglements is new work, unlike The Ecopoetry Anthology that includes historical poets (Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost) as well as contemporary poets (Gerald Stern, Jean Valentine, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield).
A favorite poem from Entanglements is Ruth Padel’s “Meeting the Lemming.”
Meeting the Lemming
None of the story is true. Hurtling over the edge
(listen, says the dark) we repeat it on Facebook over
and over, divinity lies in shutting our eyes.
White Wilderness faked the myth with domestic
lemmings, screwed out of Eskimo children,
flown from Hudson Bay and put to race on a snow-
covered turntable. Tight camera angles, what they do
to denial: turn a handful of pets to a mass mob-run
over tundra. An ice-rink. Then Disney’s film crew
threw them off a cliff. Over they go
you can see them on celluloid, falling through
the silver aspic of 1950s air, a lake of dying rodents
longhaired as Tuppenny the runaway guinea-pig
in The Fairy Caravan; like hamsters my brother kept
and kept losing through that hole under the bath
in the house where black hollyhocks grew high
as the bedroom window. That same brother
who caught frostbite on a mountain in Norway,
lingering to inspect the tricolor silks – black,
chestnut and while – of a single lemming.
If you like Entanglements, consider EarthLines Magazine, founded by the editors of this anthology.
The Ecopoetry Anthology, edited by Anne Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street (Trinity University Press), is a hefty volume with 600+ pages of poetry.
Carolyn Forche’s poem “The Museum of Stones” has a fantastic run-on, all-encompassing catalog of stones and man-built features:
The Museum of Stones
These are your stones, assembled in matchbox and tin,
collected from roadside, culvert, and viaduct,
battlefield, threshing floor, basilica, abattoir–
stones, loosened by tanks in the streets
from a city whose earliest map was drawn in ink on linen,
schoolyard stones in the hand of a corpse,
pebble from Baudelaire’s oui,
stone of the mind within us
carried from one silence to another,
stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, horneblende,
agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards,
chalk, marl, mudstone from temples and tombs,
stone from the tunnel lined with bones,
lava of a city’s entombment, stones
chipped from lighthouse, cell wall, scriptorium,
paving stones from the hands of those who rose against the army,
stones where the bells had fallen, where the bridges were blown,
those that had flown through windows, weighted petitions,
feldspar, rose quartz, blueschist, gneiss and chert,
fragments of an abbey at dusk, sandstone toe
of a Buddha mortared at Bamiyan,
stone from the hill of three crosses and a crypt,
from a chimney were storks cried like human children,
stones newly fallen from stars, a stillness of stones, a heart,
altar and boundary of stone, marker and vessel, first cast, lode and hail,
bridge stones and others to pave and shut up with,
stone apple, stone basil, beech, berry, stone brake,
stone bramble, stone fern, lichen, liverwort, pippin and root,
concretion of the body, as blind as cold as deaf,
all earth a quarry, all life a labor, stone-faced, stone-drunk
with hope that this assemblage of rubble, taken together, would become
a shrine or holy place, an ossuary, immoveable and sacred
like the stone that marked the path of the sun as it entered the human dawn.
Originally published in The New Yorker.
Other anthologies on ecopoetry are Earth Shattering edited by Neil Astley, Earth Songs, edited by Peter Abbs, and Soul of the Earth, edited by Jay Ramsay. Entanglements contains a three-page list of ecopoetry-related books.
There are a number of journals that look for poems of place and the environment. So far I’ve found these:
There is also a good summary of ecopoetry in this article from the International Times, “What is Ecopoetry?”