Field Work: Modern Poems from Eastern Forests

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While writing his book, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, Erik Reece spent a great deal of time studying strip mining and its effect on the environment and surrounding communities. After a year of exploring the ugliness of a rapidly disappearing landscape, Reece felt a strong need to celebrate the wonder the Eastern broadleaf forests still have to offer. The result is a collection of poems by individuals who share Thoreau's belief that the natural world is "an unroofed church, a place of reverence." Field Work: Modern Poems from Eastern Forests seeks an answer to Frost's question, "What to make of a diminished thing?" by contemplating work from some of the twentieth century's greatest nature poets. Reece frames contemporary American poems with a rich selection of Chinese poetry from the T'ang Dynasty, written by poets who produced what many consider the first great nature writing. More than 1,300 years ago Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, and Han Shan described a landscape in southern China remarkably similar in landscape and ecology to the forests of Appalachia. Consequently, their work has inspired many of the American poets featured in Field Work, including Hayden Carruth, Mary Oliver, A. R. Ammons, Jane Kenyon, and Denise Levertov. The modern poets in this collection share the eastern reverence for the natural world — they desire to create a poetry of belonging, of elemental contact with something much larger than the self. These poems ask the reader to turn away from urban landscapes in an effort to better understand the natural world as a spectacular, profound organism. Wendell Berry, for example, praises the quiet and solitude of nature, inspiring the reader to experience each poem in the setting for which it was written. In Field Work, Reece brings together a collection of poetry that calls readers out of doors as these poems become gateways to a natural world we are often too distracted to see.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"What a stirring and illuminating book! These are poems I'd like to take with me on a ridge-line walk, to read aloud to companions, and to memorize by the fireside." — John Elder, author of Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature and coeditor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing" —

"Many thanks to Erik Reece for pulling us back from the brink of worry, if only for a time, into the immutable beauty of the world. I am glad to be back, to rest awhile. Reece's carefully chosen poems return us to our primal relationship with wonder." —Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" —

"This mountainous range of nature poems proves without a doubt why the planet is worth saving from human onslaught.And that nature can inspire the heightened consciousness in these poems is reason enough to think the human race might be worth saving, too."—Bobbie Ann Mason" —

"Compelled by the conviction that we all need more poetry in our lives — the poetry of words and the poetry of sunsets — Erik Reece has created a handy assemblage to facilitate such an outcome.His aim is not only to have us read this trusty book, but to foster in each of us a greater attentiveness to the world around us, with all its attendant sorrows and beautiful possibilities.—Jennifer SahnEditor, Orion magazine" —

"Many books claim to take you places. This one does." —Modern Mountain Magazine" —

"This is an excellent collection of poems about the natural world. This slim volume with its fine selections is an ideal model for what great anthologies should do: preserve timeless poetry and keep the reader enthralled." —Bloomsbury Review" —

"When traveling light, choose Field Work, a small book of poetry edited by Erik Reece. Wasted moments of waiting or loneliness are erased and you are uplifted to an out-of-doors church." — Mary Popham, The Courier-Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813124971
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik Reece teaches writing at the University of Kentucky. His work has appeared in Harper's, Orion, and The Oxford American, among other publications. He is the recipient of the Sierra Club's David R. Brower Award and Columbia University's 2005 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. His collection of poems, A Short History of the Present, is forthcoming.

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Table of Contents

Poets included: A. R. Ammons Alvin Aubert Wendell Berry David Budbill Hayden Carruth James Baker Hall Robert Frost Jane Kenyon John Lane Denise Levertov Davis McCombs Jim Wayne Miller Lorine Niedecker Thorpe Moeckel Mary Oliver James Still Richard Taylor Roberta Hill Whiteman Charles Wright James Wright

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