Poetry and the Anthropocene

Poetry and the Anthropocene : Ecology, biology and technology in contemporary British and Irish poetry

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This book asks what it means to write poetry in and about the Anthropocene, the name given to a geological epoch where humans have a global ecological impact. Combining critical approaches such as ecocriticism and posthumanism with close reading and archival research, it argues that the Anthropocene requires poetry and the humanities to find new ways of thinking about unfamiliar spatial and temporal scales, about how we approach the metaphors and discourses of the sciences, and about the role of those processes and materials that confound humans' attempts to control or even conceptualise them. Poetry and the Anthropocene draws on the work of a series of poets from across the political and poetic spectrum, analysing how understandings of technology shape literature about place, evolution and the tradition of writing about what still gets called Nature. The book explores how writers' understanding of sciences such as climatology or biochemistry might shape their poetry's form, and how literature can respond to environmental crises without descending into agitprop, self-righteousness or apocalyptic cynicism. In the face of the Anthropocene's radical challenges to ethics, aesthetics and politics, the book shows how poetry offers significant ways of interrogating and rendering the complex relationships between organisms and their environments in a world increasingly marked by technology.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 15.24mm | 476g
  • Taylor & Francis Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1 black & white illustrations, 1 black & white halftones
  • 1138941689
  • 9781138941687

About Sam Solnick

Sam Solnick is the William Noble Research Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Liverpool, UK.show more

Review quote

Sam Solnick has written a compellingly mobile, unpredictable and multi-dimensional study of contemporary poetry within the context of current debates about literature, ecology, systems theory and environmental crisis. It operates on two fronts. In the first place, Solnick offers a brilliant critique of modern thinking about ecology, ecopoetry, ecocriticism, and the poetry associated with it, provocatively rethinking current assumptions about environment-oriented poetry and theory. In the second, he offers scintillating and authoritative readings of three major contemporary poets no-one else would have dreamed of bracketing together: Ted Hughes, Derek Mahon and J.H. Prynne. Claiming that poetry is particularly useful for thinking about the 'biological, ecological and social systems important to the Anthropocene', Solnick has not only written a highly original study of the three poets in their intellectual contexts but a uniquely self-reflexive map of current thinking about the fate of the human, the natural and the ecological in our period of acute environmental crisis. Hugh Haughton - University of York. Sam Solnick has written an indispensable account of the concept of ecopoetry, its meanings, history, and vicissitudes, giving the term a sharp and valuable focus. Better than that, he has instantiated its force in close, informed engaged close readings of work by three modern poets, Ted Hughes, Derek Mahon and J.H. Prynne Tim Clark - Durham University As Solnick says, we are living in an age when humanity has 'the capacity to disrupt (but not control) biological and ecological process'. This thoughtful and timely book addresses what it means to read and write poetry in this context Robert Hampson FEA, FRSA Professor of Modern Literature, Royal Holloway, University of Londonshow more

Table of contents

Introduction: poetry and science 1. Evolving systems of (eco)poetry 2. 'Life subdued to its instrument': Hughes, mutation and technology 3. 'Germinal ironies': changing climates in the poetry of Derek Mahon 4. The resistant materials of Jeremy Prynne Conclusion: Evolution, agency and feedback at the end of a worldshow more