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

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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 h 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 poeticlegacy more vital now than ever.


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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 h 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 poeticlegacy more vital now than ever.

30 review for Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems

  1. 4 out of 5

    Athena

    Probably not, but poetry can sure help us see the earth and that's worth something. Felstiner's "field guide" starts with the Bible and anonymous and works up to Gary Snyder (born 1930), so nobody younger than 79 and that leaves out a big crowd of poets who are seeing the earth. For folks new to poetry about nature and even for folks new to poetry, this book is a nifty introduction.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Merilee

    THE BEST!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    This is a terrific idea, a critical study of nature poetry. Many good things about nature and about poetry are reflected on here. But I thought the book difficult to read. It's made up largely of quoted poetry fragments woven into Felstiner's prose gloss so that I had trouble fastening my attention on either. Sentences are broken by pieces of a poetic line. Paragraphs are interrupted by a few lines of poetry. The constant mental shift from Felstiner's words to a poet's phrase and back again made This is a terrific idea, a critical study of nature poetry. Many good things about nature and about poetry are reflected on here. But I thought the book difficult to read. It's made up largely of quoted poetry fragments woven into Felstiner's prose gloss so that I had trouble fastening my attention on either. Sentences are broken by pieces of a poetic line. Paragraphs are interrupted by a few lines of poetry. The constant mental shift from Felstiner's words to a poet's phrase and back again made for muddied reading. I'd have preferred Felstiner's ideas presented whole followed by poems illustrating those points. The author's shotgun method was too disruptive for me to follow easily. I'm not even sure there's a complete poem in the book. Felstiner's 21st century sensibilities got in my way, too. His chapter on Biblical nature writing is subtitled "Singing Ecology unto the Lord." The Medievalists he characterized as "Anon Was an Environmentalist." Maybe. Some of the poets he devotes chapters to we'd consider true nature poets: Robinson Jeffers, Maxine Kumin. Of those who seem shoehorned into the label, Robert Lowell is the poorest fit. All these poets write about nature. Felstiner, however, doesn't always make the distinction between nature and environmental consciousness. It may be subtle, but I think there's a distinction. Keats looked at nature and wrote about it very differently than Gary Snyder does.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Keith Taylor

    This surprised me. I thought it would be terrible, but it was pretty good! Longish discussions of some very important "nature" poems. Perhaps nothing new, but lots of good things to return to. I reviewed it here: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text... This surprised me. I thought it would be terrible, but it was pretty good! Longish discussions of some very important "nature" poems. Perhaps nothing new, but lots of good things to return to. I reviewed it here: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This is a wonderful collection of nature poems. As I sit here and listen to the house finches that are playing in our forsythia and lilac bushes, I recall a poem about a cold early spring

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patrice

    John is an English professor at Stanford University. He is teaching several English classes on the topic of "Poetry and Environmental Awareness." I printed off one of his syllabi and have been systematically working my way down the reading assignments. I'm looking forward to hearing him read in Seattle later this week.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Slated for the Stanford Book Salon JANUARY 2010 Hosted by: John Felstiner, professor of English, and by courtesy, of Spanish and Portuguese and of German Studies My local library doesn't have a copy; I will see if I can find one elsewhere, in my price range for the discussion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steve Baru

    The answer is yes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leisha Wharfield

    Beautifully written & engaging. Beautifully written & engaging.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Oresick

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Cooper

  13. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    January Stanford Book Salon selection

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roberto

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karissa Morton

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jill Tomasetti

  23. 5 out of 5

    ANNE MORIN

  24. 4 out of 5

    Megan RFA

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fred

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon M.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angelica

  28. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Heady

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