Tag Archive for: eco-poetry

What do you do when you are a god – but powerless and unable to prevent one of your favourite species from their insatiable, accelerating death wish? Do you try to shout louder and more insistently, or instead reinvent yourself as a troubadour of romantic ruin? Such are the dilemmas posed by Rishi Dastidar in his third poetry collection Neptune’s Projects, a reshaping of mythology for the climate crisis era which gives bold consideration to the stark choices we face. A post-apocalyptic jig and reel, these poems are compelling, deadpan yarns of the sea, full of both fury and fun. In Neptune’s Projects the end of humanity is made wry, thrilling – and alive.

‘Rishi Dastidar is a ludic myth-maker, a satirist of keen eye and big heart. These poems of the sea and shores of this ‘tight little island’ bite back with verve and gallows wit.’ ~ Karen McCarthy Woolf

‘There has always been an intersection between poetry and the natural world. Now here comes Rishi Dastidar’s Neptune to add wit, postmodern panache and mythic irony to the tradition of the open sea. A richly rewarding read.’ ~ Roger Robinson 

Rishi Dastidar was guest contributor to May 2023’s What We’re Reading Now. Discover some of his recommended eco-writing here.

‘What Fire is about how to continue as catastrophe crawls in, when the climate crisis has its grip on us all, the internet has been shut down, and the buildings are burning up. What happens when the philosophers never arrive? What songs are still worth singing? In her third collection, Alice Miller takes a fierce, unflinching look at the world we live in, at what we have made, and whether it is possible to change.
Alice Miller takes a critical lens to our current malaise, tackling the current decline of our climate and planet to the way technology has both advanced and stunted human civilisations. A collection which feels as if it’s somehow speaking to us all.’ ~ Anthony Anaxagorou

‘In Alice Miller’s What Fire, the legacies of our past and future are ardently exhumed and examined. Miller’s musical, philosophical lines wrangle themes of grief, guilt, climate change, cancer, love, love lost, and war with resonance and insight. By hewing to reality and refusing retreat, Miller’s lyrical conscience emerges as the vehicle for a hard-won hope’ ~ Mark Leidner

Source: poet’s website

Garden Physic is a radical poetic movement through plant life. With her singular line, Sylvia Legris journeys readers through an investigation of how we articulate our ecological surrounds in language through botanical histories.

With a structure that emulates the style of classic manuscripts, Legris’s book deploys humour, deep intellect, and a fanatical obsession with the potential of language, punching through the cliches of contemporary nature writing. A brief snapshot:

‘how to write about flowers without the nauseating sentimental phraseology?
No quaint, no dainty, no winsome. This smells good, that smells bad, my hands
rank with manure. This at least is pure.’

The whole book is a glorious meditation on the garden and the power of plants: how they can heal us, emotionally and physically, and how we communicate with them.

Tender and brutal, seductive and repulsive, Meat Lovers introduces a compelling new mode of hardcore pastoral.

I am trying to go vegetarian but finding myself weak,
week to week browsing the meat aisle at a linger
close enough to chill my arms to gooseflesh. I only buy
stuff so processed it hardly makes sense to call it meat.
Saveloy, nugget, continental frankfurter;
whatever gets extruded pink beyond possible memory
of the preceding body.
— ‘The Flexitarian’

In this dazzling first collection, acclaimed Wellington poet and Canterbury farm-girl Rebecca Hawkes takes a generous bite from the excesses of earthly flesh – first ‘Meat’, then ‘Lovers’.

Meat’ is a coming of age in which pony clubs, orphaned lambs and dairy-shed delirium are infused with playful menace and queer longings. Between bottle-fed care and killing-shed floors, the farm is a heady setting for love and death.

In ‘Lovers’, the poet casts a wry eye over romance, from youthful sapphic infatuation to seething beastliness. Sentimental intensity is anchored by an introspective comic streak, in which ‘the stars are watching us / and boy howdy are they judgemental’.

This collection of queasy hungers offers a feast of explosive mince & cheese pies, accusatory crackling, lab-grown meat and beetroot tempeh burger patties, all washed down with bloody milk or apple-mush moonshine. It teems with sensuous life, from domesticated beasts to the undulating mysteries of eels, as Hawkes explores uneasy relationships with our animals and with each other.

Source: Auckland University Press

‘Part eco-poetry, part Arthurian fan-fiction in verse, Frost & Pollen unfurls as a sustained meditation by a mature poet’s hand. At once erotic—imagine Georgia O’Keeffe’s floral paintings—and deliberately in dialogue with the earth, Hajnoczky presents a poetics that centres female pleasure and luxuriates in foliage, in imagery and language. Told partly from the perspective of the Green Knight, this work is mythical and imaginative, well-researched and deftly crafted. A delightful read.’ ~ Klara du Plessis, author of Ekke and Hell Light Flesh

Frost & Pollen is a verdant efflorescence of words blooming over an understory of myth, the lush foliage of its language, of desire and the garden, nature and humankind, balanced between Eros and Thanatos, between intimacy and danger, power and libido. It is a delight and a rich satisfaction to stray in the remarkable life and beauty of its lines. This is poetry filled with the force (and music) that drives the green fuse.’ ~ Gary Barwin, author of Yiddish for Pirates and For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe

‘Hajnoczky’s language flowers with whorls of sonic splendour. In this embodied and ecological exploration, letters unfurl, and time collapses as medieval and millennial mysteries mingle in a forest of swerves that will leave readers enchanted. Touching her tongue to the roots of language, Hajnoczky deracinates exclusionary practices of listening, syntax, and meaning-making in a topology of rapture.’ ~ Suzanne Zelazo, author of Lances All Alike and Parlance

‘Frost & Pollen continues Helen Hajnoczky’s spectacular interrogation of language and her experimentation with the porous boundaries between body and earth. Much like the language play of Gertrude Stein or Lisa Robertson, Hajnoczky’s text gives language an intimate flavour but also transmutes the familiar into the foreign. Her open questioning brings in subjects as diverse as female desire, botany, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Tense with desire, these powerful poems show once again, that Hajnoczky’s poetic eye is impeccable and her voice is one of the most assured in Canadian poetry.’ ~ Sandy Pool, author of Undark

Source: Invisible Publishing

The Knucklebone Floor is partly a verse biography of Susan Davidson (1796–1877), who spent thirty years landscaping and developing the grounds of Allen Banks in Northumberland, including woodland, paths, rustic bridges and a summer house with a knucklebone floor. It is also a book about boundaries and wilderness, fragility and resilience, flora and fauna, people and places, then and now, women and men, the human world and the natural world. Richly and formally inventive, it offers a collective perspective of history, identity and ecology at a time of global fragmentation and ecological crisis.

Cover image: Matilda Bevan, Study of a Stream, Allen Banks (2018)

Source: Smokestack Books

‘There’s a deep personal feeling found in Forrest Gander’s desperately beautiful ‘Librettos for Eros’ [in which] feeling masters the poems, and it is feeling about self, desperate, squandered, willful, all but out of control – and ultimately uncivilised…’ ~ Thom Gunn

‘Forrest Gander knows that the poet’s first duty is “to see what’s there and not already patterned by familiarity” – and in Your Nearness he brings to that task a combination of vision, generosity of spirit and humility in the face of wonder that singles him out as one of the finest, and most vigilant, poets working in English today.’ ~ John Burnside

Source: Arc Publications

‘These eels were born in a continent of ocean
and their parents carried into that vastness
on mindless, reliable, pot-luck currents
from Iceland, Belgium, Tunisia, Spain.’

The European Eel is a long poem that imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and ​enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish of the poem’s title. Based on Ely’s in-depth engagement with the scientific literature, discussions with leading eel researchers and conservationists, and hands-on experience with the eel in river systems across the country and abroad, ​The European Eel is unique not only in its sustained birth-to-death focus on the eel, but in the vivid way the eel’s riverine and marine habitats are evoked and articulated—and in its portrayal of the daunting array of anthropogenic threats that are currently threatening this once common species with extinction. Although a poem first and foremost—an Expressionistic epic monology that transforms its natural history into a quasi-gnostic affirmation of the persistence of life in the context of the Anthropocene and the Sixth Extinction—the poem’s rootedness in research enables it to transcend its status as art to function as a credible piece of informed nature writing capable of shaping ecological debate. Seventeen pages of illustrations by the award-winning artist P.R. Ruby complement and interpret the text, and detailed notes provide context that further opens up the astonishing world of the European eel.

‘Steve’s research of the eel’s complex life history is reflected in this incredible long-form poem – anything shorter would not have done this fish justice.’  ~ Dr Matthew Gollock, Marine and Freshwater Senior Programme Manager, Zoological Society of London.

Source: London Review of Books

What is still wild in us – and is it recoverable? We do not live in a time when we can afford denial.

The poems in Wilder, Jemma Borg’s second collection, are acts of excavation into the deeper and more elusive aspects of our mental and physical lives. Whether revisiting Dante’s forest of the suicides, experiencing the saturation of new motherhood or engaging in a boundary-dissolving encounter with a psychedelic cactus, these meticulous and sensuous poems demonstrate a restless intelligence, seeking out what we are losing and inviting us to ‘break ourselves each against the beauty of the other’. They call on us to remember ourselves as the animals we are, in connection with the complex web of life in what Mary Midgley called an ‘extended sympathy’, and to consider wildness as a process of becoming, reforming and growth. We do not live in a time when we can afford denial. Instead, by being willing to enter despair, might we find what Gary Snyder described as ‘the real world to which we belong’ and recover the means to save what we are destroying?

 

Unexhausted Time inhabits a world of dream and dawn, in which thoughts touch us ‘like soft rain’, and all the elements are brought closer in.

Feelings, messages, symbols, visions… Emily Berry’s latest collection takes shape in the half-light between the real and the imagined, where everything is lost and yet ‘nothing goes away’. Here life’s innumerable impressions, moods, seasons and déjà vus collect and disarrange themselves, while a glowing, companionable ‘I’ travels the mind’s landscapes in hope of refuge and transformation amid these displaced moments in time. Whether one reads Unexhausted Time as a long poem to step into or a series of titled and untitled fragments to pick up and cherish, the work is healing and inspiring, always asking how we might harness the power of naming without losing life’s ‘magic unknownness’. By offering these intangible encounters, Emily Berry more truly presents ‘what being alive is’.

‘Emily Berry has a refreshingly free, not to say incendiary, approach to poetry.’ ~ Observer