You are here

Recomposing Ecopoetics

North American Poetry of the Self-Conscious Anthropocene
Lynn Keller

BUY Cloth · 304 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940618 · $65.00 · Jan 2018
BUY Paper · 304 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940625 · $29.50 · Jan 2018
BUY Ebook · 304 pp. · ISBN 9780813940632 · $65.00 · Jan 2018

In the first book devoted exclusively to the ecopoetics of the twenty-first century, Lynn Keller examines poetry of what she terms the "self-conscious Anthropocene," a period in which there is widespread awareness of the scale and severity of human effects on the planet. Recomposing Ecopoetics analyzes work written since the year 2000 by thirteen North American poets--including Evelyn Reilly, Juliana Spahr, Ed Roberson, and Jena Osman--all of whom push the bounds of literary convention as they seek forms and language adequate to complex environmental problems. Drawing as often on linguistic experimentalism as on traditional literary resources, these poets respond to environments transformed by people and take "nature" to be a far more inclusive and culturally imbricated category than conventional nature poetry does. This interdisciplinary study not only brings cutting-edge work in ecocriticism to bear on a diverse archive of contemporary environmental poetry; it also offers the environmental humanities new ways to understand the cultural and affective dimensions of the Anthropocene.


Lynn Keller has written a brilliant account of the dynamics between poetic form and the most critical environmental issues of our time. This is essential reading for students and scholars of the environmental humanities at large.

Rob Nixon, Princeton University, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

" Recomposing Ecopoetics is smart, illuminating, timely, and challenging in all the right ways. Ecocriticism and poetry studies need a book like this, which carefully and persuasively demonstrates the power and relevance of experimental, environmental poems in our troubled age of the Anthropocene."

Scott Knickerbocker, The College of Idaho, author of Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language

One of the pleasures of reading Recomposing Ecopoetics comes from periodically revisiting poets, like Gander, Reilly, and Spahr, who recur throughout the chapters. Keller’s willingness to return to familiar figures suggests that neither their poetry nor its ecological significance is exhausted by her readings. Keller constructs, rather than extracts, a corpus.

Los Angeles Review of Books

Recomposing Ecopoetics is a well-grounded work of literary criticism that can easily function as the primary textbook for a first course in environmental humanities, as it does a very strong job of introducing key concepts in the field through looking deeply at a few works of contemporary North American poetry. It is at its finest in exposing the importance of six specific concepts that inform a coherent philosophy that lives at the intersection of aesthetics and environmentalism and that aims to influence policy and culture, and does so with reference both to current trends in literary criticism and past traditions in the humanities.

Electronic Green Journal

Keller is an astute, capable critic, admirably fulfilling the goal she identifies as "illuminating" the poetry of a range of figures including Forrest Gander, Juliana Spahr,and Mark Nowak.... Keller’s treatment of Spahr demonstrates her adroit application, verging on reinvention, of ecocritical approaches.

American Literary History

Recomposing Ecopoetics offers an intervention. This boundary-pushing text brings to the fore dynamic ecopoetic work reconstituting the lyric–nature–wilderness as-semblage that has dominated the study of North American ecopoetry. As such, the monograph makes a distinct contribution to ecopoetics through its thorough-going exploration of experimental, radical, urban, less accessible, and non-lyricmodes, including the ‘fractured or partially asyntactic.'... [A]n eminentlyvaluable addition to anglophone ecopoetic criticism.

Modern Language Review

One of the pleasures of Recomposing Ecopoetics is witnessing Keller’s dexterity as she moves between detailed readings of poems and the environmental debates to which they open up. And, even though "none" of the thirteen writers she studies "imagines that poetry will save the world," Keller shows her audience that poetry has become a key arena for the interrogation and reimagination of human relationships to nature.... The strength of Recomposing Ecopoetics is the case it makes for experimental poetics in a field that has so often found itself preferring direct, prereflective experience to the experimental investigation of discourse.

Modern Philology

Lynn Keller’s Recomposing Ecopoetics: North American Poetry of the Self-ConsciousAnthropocene makes the case that the formal and linguistic experimentationassociated with avant-garde poetry yields important contributions for environmentalliterature and ecocriticism.... The strength of [the book] is the case it makes for experimental poetics in a field that has so often found itself preferring direct, prereflective experience to the experimental investigation of discourse.

Modern Philology

Keller’s Recomposing Ecopoetics is a major contribution to anglophone ecopoetic criticism in 2018. In this study of North American ecopoetics, Keller characterizes the self-conscious Anthropocene as ‘a powerful cultural phenomenon tied to reflexive, critical and often anxious awareness of the scale and severity of human effects’ on the biosphere (p. 2). The monograph turns a much-needed critical eye towards recent ecopoetic work—specifically of the last fifteen years—that troubles the pre-eminence of the lyric mode.


Given the ethos of nuanced ecological responsibility Keller’s book cultivates, it seems inappropriate to call Recomposing Ecopoetics groundbreaking or trailblazing. Yet this intervention pushes the discourses of poetics and environmental thinking into productivenew areas, both in its selection of ecopoetic materials and its negotiation of ecological issues with profound implications for planetary life. Keller is without doubt the most eminently qualified, lucid, and thought-provoking guide to the tangled bank of experimental ecopoetics and its potentials in this new era of the Anthropocene.

Contemporary Literature

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books