Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems John Felstiner

Publication date:
26 Oct 2010
Yale University Press
440 pages: 235 x 156mm
22 color + 41 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

At a time of environmental crises, poetry can reawaken us to the beauty and fragility of our natural world

Poems vivifying nature have gripped people for centuries. From Biblical times to the present day, poetry has continuously drawn us to the natural world. In this thought-provoking book, John Felstiner explores the rich legacy of poems that take nature as their subject, and he demonstrates their force and beauty. In our own time of environmental crises, he contends, poetry has a unique capacity to restore our attention to our environment in its imperiled state. And, as we take heed, we may well become better stewards of the earth.

In forty brief and lucid chapters, Felstiner presents those voices that have most strongly spoken to and for the natural world. Poets—from the Romantics through Whitman and Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop and Gary Snyder—have helped us envision such details as ocean winds eroding and rebuilding dunes in the same breath, wild deer freezing in our presence, and a person carving initials on a still-living stranded whale.

Sixty color and black-and-white images, many seen for the first time, bear out visually the environmental imagination this book discovers—a poetic legacy more vital now than ever.

John Felstiner, from Stanford University, wrote the prize-winning Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew and Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu.

"Can Poetry Save the Earth? leads the reader through the landscapes of some wonderful poems... this book is manifestly a labour of love. Felstiner manages to be both ecstatic and admonitory, visionary and attentive to detail. His immense reading is like a forest through which he has lovingly carved out several inviting paths. That one is tempted to ponder alternative ways of organizing the book (poems about rivers, trees, meadows? poems about gardens, animals, the seasons?) is an acknowledgment of Felstiner's learned, enthusiastic and hopeful achievement."-Times Literary Supplement

"A fine, clearly written and moving cry for an awareness of the depredations human kind are wreaking on the planet." -Brimingham Post

"This is a remarkable book."—Terry Gifford, Green Letters, Journal for the Association for Studies in Literature and the Environment