CHAPTER 4
Environment and Space

READING SPACE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Lawrence Buell in The Future of Environmental Criticism states that ‘In one form or another the “idea of nature” has been a dominant or at least residual concern for literary scholars and intellectual historians ever since these fields came into being’.1 Throughout literary history, poetry has always been attentive to the environment that surrounds the perceiving subject. More recently these ideas have been framed in terms of ecocritical thinking and theory. In considering ideas of environment and space, this chapter initially examines the term ‘ecocriticism’ and how poetry is responsive to the construction of identities through regional identifications–often referred to as a ‘poetics of place’. During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries our ideas of ‘nature’ poetry have become more complex. Some poets exercise a taxonomist’s eye for detailing the natural landscape and evoking a geographical history. Yet it should be stressed that contemporary poetry’s relationship to ‘nature’ is being thought of as representing not only the immediate environment, but also its relationship to economic and cultural change, as well as physical threat. This difference between poetries is explicated succinctly by Jonathan Skinner: ‘critics have made a useful distinction between nature poetry and ecopoetry–to paraphrase Juliana Spahr–one focuses (apolitically) only on the bird, the other considers as well the bulldozer about to destroy the

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Contemporary Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Chronology xii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Lyric Subjects 25
  • Chapter 2 - Politics and Poetics 58
  • Chapter 3 - Performance and the Poem 98
  • Chapter 4 - Environment and Space 133
  • Chapter 5 - Dialects, Idiolects and Multilingual Poetries 171
  • Conclusion 207
  • Student Resources 231
  • Index 255
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