Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can Poetry Save the Earth?

Yesterday, after dropping the kids off at school, I listened to a wonderful piece on NPR: An Author Asks: 'Can Poetry Save The Earth?'

Stanford English professor John Felstiner has a collection of poetry entitled Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems.

According to Harold Bloom's blurb on the book on Amazon:
John Felstiner's study is a remarkable attempt to bring the rich tradition of nature poetry to our aid in the current and ongoing ecological crisis. I find particularly moving his extraordinary range of sympathy for the very varied poets he discusses.

In the NPR story, Felstiner was asked to pick just one poem that he thought "could save the world, if everyone were to read it."

He picked
The Well Rising, by William Stafford

The well rising without sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through the deep ground
everywhere in the field —

The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer —

The swallow heart from wing beat to wing beat
counseling decision, decision:
thunderous examples. I place my feet
with care in such a world.

An article in EarthTimes provides a more complete review, with this interesting description:
Each chapter focuses on a poet who has written about the natural world, from the Psalmist to the modern poet. One by one it calls up voices from Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Hardy, Hopkins, Yeats and Frost to Millay, Neruda, Kunitz, Levertov, Walcott and Gary Snyder. To round out this experience, full-color and black-and-white images, many of them discovered and published for the first time, show sources of environmental imagination.

Poetry is good medicine...pass it on.


  1. I know I don't read enough poetry - this collection sounds worthwhile with a great variety of poets.

    Please check my blog for an award for you, Jane. Glad you can comment on my blog now!

  2. Thanks for the award, Margaret. It means a lot to me that you would honor me and my blog :)