ISLE Issue 29.2: Focus on Poetry

Editor’s Note by Christina Gerhardt

April, of course, is National Poetry Month. In celebration of it, Cecily Parks, ISLE’s Associate Editor of Poetry, edited a special cluster of poetry. Featuring work by Tamiko Beyer, Carla M. Cherry, Tyler John Dettloff, Sara Lupita Olivares, and Cintia Santana, it highlights new poetry engaging the environment. The subsequent essays, too, engage poetry and poetics. Davy Knittle considers African American US poet June Jordan’s “Skyrise for Harlem,” an essay Jordan penned that refuses 1950s and 1960s style urban renewal and “instead envisions urban justice that sutures the valuation of Black life to access to and care for the city’s ecological landscape.” Eliza Holmes turns to British Romantic era poet John Clare and what role scavenging played in securing “his food, his work and even his paper and ink” and how subsistence scavenging changed his relationship to land and manifests in his poetry. Kyle Bladow’s essay focuses on how Tommy Pico uses different forms of “space”—on the page (in print and online), inflected by urban settings, in a live poetry reading and in humor—to unsettle and reimagine nature poetry. Sarah Giragosian examines how “zoopoetics”—concerned with entanglements of “animality and poetic language” and “the process by which animals participate in an activity of poetic making”—informs the lyric animal poems of contemporary poets Sarah Lindsay and Kay Ryan. Thomas Festa considers Merwin’s later poetry in light of Merwin’s land conservation efforts, namely how the palm forestry of what would become the Conservancy “illuminates his evolving practice of transplanting elements of traditional form and structure into free verse.” Enaiê Mairê Azambuja argues “that a Zen framework for reading [William Carlos] Williams, particularly his poetry and prose collage in Spring and All […] foregrounds the fundamental principles of his ecopoetics, namely the vital force of the imagination and its relations with materiality.” Robert Fillman reads Harlem Renaissance poet Helen Johnson’s lyrics and observes how they render nature “as simultaneously beautiful and haunted by violence, as source of pleasure and fear,” considering how her pastorals exhibit the “widespread white racial violence toward African Americans in the United States, which included … lynching” and the threat of sexual violence. Jayme Collins’ essay turns to Jen Bervin’s Silk Poems, arguing “that Silk Poems’ twinned formal qualities—inscription as a process of silk-making intimately tied to making books and writing poems and charismatic voice as a lyric endowment of the silkworm-speaker—configure a fundamental problem in the field of ecopoetics.” Rounding out this issue’s focus on poetry is Yvonne Reddick’s interview with poet Karen McCarthy Woolf, in which Woolf discusses the intersection of her ecocritical research and her poetic practice. Two essays of creative nonfiction and book reviews close out the volume: Tyra Olstad takes us to Alaska’s Brooks Mountains, “the northernmost extent of the North American Cordillera and the highest range above the Arctic Circle,” via Bob Marshall’s Alaska Wilderness and Diane P. Freedman, too, plans to take us rambling and also on an outdoor swim but then, things turn out somewhat differently, and she considers the relationship among memories, diamonds and rust. Happy reading!

View the ToC for the Spring 2022 issue