Greening the Lyre: Environmental Poetics and Ethics

Hardback
In an age when human depredation has severely damaged the earth and the delicate balance of life thereon, the task of poets writing about nature has become vastly more complex, fraught with the sometimes conflicting demands of aesthetics and of political and ethical responsibilities unimagined by their Romantic predecessors. In Greening the Lyre, David W. Gilcrest offers a richly insightful analysis of contemporary environmental poetry informed by a keen knowledge of psychology, linguistics, epistemology, rhetoric, and recent literary theory. If one of the roles of poetry is to make life better and understanding more profound, how is the poet to discuss the natural world in the face of environmental devastation and extraordinary rates of extinction? How can art alter the path of a culture bent on destruction? Using careful analyses of works by A. R. Ammons, Wallace Stevens, Adrienne Rich, Charles Wright, Robert Frost, and others as the foundation of his discussion, Gilcrest examines both the power of poetry to help humanity re-envision its relationship to the nonhuman world and its limitations in achieving this awesome role. Greening the Lyre is literary criticism at its most relevant, exploring the borderland between art and politics, between aesthetics and survival. Ultimately, Gilcrest suggests, a skeptical environmental poetics must develop an awareness of an evolving world that lies beyond the grasp of language, an understanding that language alone cannot fully define what is most precious in the world of wilderness, the ineluctable mystery of all living things.