As this year’s National Poetry Month comes to a close, we’ve pulled an especially apt volume from the Land Library’s shelves: John Felstiner’s Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems. From Wordsworth and Whitman, all the way to Elizabeth Bishop and Gary Snyder, Felstiner devotes forty insightful chapters to poets clearly captured by the natural world.
Awareness seems to be a consistent theme throughout this book. The American poet William Carlos Williams wrote in 1923: “There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world.” John Felstiner continues, by way of introduction to William’s most famous poem: “Nothing so marks Williams, over five decades, as this urge to cleanse our consciousness.”
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
As Felstiner adds: “So much depends on seeing the things of our world afresh by seeing them anew.”
So what’s the answer to the question posed by this book? Not to spoil an ending, but here’s how John Felstiner closes his book: “Can poetry save the earth? For sure, person by person, our earthly challenge hangs on the sense and spirit that poems can awaken.”
pictured above: Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems by John Felstiner, along with artist Ann Atman’s delightful homage to William Carlos William’s iconic poem.
Here’s just a few of the poets discussed in Can Poetry Save the Earth?
Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, John Haines, W.S. Merwin, Robinson Jeffers, Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz, and Emily Dickinson. For more on each of these poets, plus many, many more, visit the terrific website of the Poetry Foundation!
We also love this photo of the good doctor of Rutherford, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams!