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.
" 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."
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.
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.
Lynn Keller is Martha Meier Renk-Bascom Professor of Poetry and Bradshaw Knight Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author, most recently, of Thinking Poetry: Readings in Contemporary Women’s Exploratory Poetics.