Earth Shattering, Eco Poems edited by Neil Astley, is an anthology of poetry about the relationship between humans and the natural world. It encompasses a wide range of poems along the continuum of pure nature poetry and campaigning environmental poetry, though it avoids the most didactic poetry. Neil Astley uses the phrase eco-poetry to describe this continuum of poetry, others have called it ‘green poetry’ or ‘the new nature poetry’. The book includes work from a wide variety of poets, including many of the most well known eco-poets from across the world. The book also includes useful biographies of all the poets.
Earth Shattering is arranged in sections that look at different elements of the human relationship with nature:
1. Rooted in Nature features poetry largely from ancient Chinese poets but also from Romantic poets and more contemporary poets.
2. Changing the Landscape focuses on 18th and 19th Century poets who wrote about the destruction of the environment, showing that environmental awareness does in fact go back further than we sometimes think.
3. Killing the Wildlife focuses on the death of individual animals but mostly on extinctions.
4. Unbalance of Nature includes poetry about pollution, deforestation, urbanisation.
5. Loss and Persistance laments what we are losing and celebrates the nature that remains and our attempts to protect it.
6. The Great Web focuses on our interdependence with nature and includes poems that are love poems to nature.
7. Exploitation looks at our exploitative relationship with nature, including a section on Dispossessing America.
8. Force of Nature focuses on climate change and global warming and the broader state of the planet.
9. Natural Disasters looks at hurricanes and other 'natural' disasters that are becoming more common as the climate changes.
To quote from the book's introduction:
‘As the world’s politicians and corporations orchestrate our headlong rush towards Eco-Armageddon, poetry may seem like a hopeless gesture. But Earth Shattering shows that the power of poetry is in the detail, in the force of each individual poem, in every poem’s effect on every reader. And anyone whose resolve is stirred will strengthen the collective call for change’
It's an excellent anthology that I have used in the poetry section of the Environmental Writing course I teach in the University of Edinburgh Lifelong learning programme. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in poetry and the environment.
Earth Shattering edited by Neil Astley, published by Bloodaxe, 2007