The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral

Joshua Corey, Editor, G C Waldrep, Editor
Edited by Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $28 trade paper (580p) ISBN 978-1-934103-29-6
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This hefty and gorgeously designed anthology offers an unusual take on pastoral poetry, which might be defined as poems humbled by nature. The editors of this book gathered nature poems from contemporary experimental poets, many of them under 40 years old, to present the natural world through the eyes of, as Corey says in his introduction, “a digital native with dirt between one’s toes,” representing a movement in poetry toward what is sometimes referred to as “ecopoetics.” Many of these poems speak from a natural world in flux and crisis, registering the degradation of the environment from all angles as well as human encroachment on it: “Starlings in the magnolia tree crackle, static, lightning: a helicopter floats overhead,” writes Susan Briante in “The End of Another Creature.” Of course, they also sing nature’s beauty, as does John Taggart, who describes the “white deer the animal the true animal body no jewelry.” The editors also offer a fairly comprehensive tour of contemporary poetic forms and modes, from mostly traditional lyrics and long poems to prose poems, concrete poems, colleges, and other pieces that might best be described as visual art with words, such as Robert Fitterman’s “Zoomburb.” There is a lot here, from well-known writers like Brenda Hillman and Forrest Gander to up-and-comers like Amy King and John Beer. This could be the rare poetry anthology that sticks. (Jan.)
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