‘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