The Arcadia Project
Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep, eds.
The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral is a nearly 600-page anthology bringing together seminal work in the genre of the pastoral as it has evolved into the 21st century. Published by Ahsahta Press, edited by poets Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep, and designed by Jeff Clark, the book includes sections on New Transcendentalisms, Textual Ecologies, Local Powers, and The Necropastoral.
From the review in Publishers Weekly: “The editors of this book gathered nature poems from contemporary experimental poets, many of them under 40 years old, to present the natural world through the eyes of, as Corey says in his introduction, ‘a digital native with dirt between one’s toes,’ representing a movement in poetry toward what is sometimes referred to as ‘ecopoetics.’ Many of these poems speak from a natural world in flux and crisis, registering the degradation of the environment from all angles as well as human encroachment on it: ‘Starlings in the magnolia tree crackle, static, lightning: a helicopter floats overhead,’ writes Susan Briante in ‘The End of Another Creature.’ Of course, they also sing nature’s beauty, as does John Taggart, who describes the ‘white deer the animal the true animal body no jewelry.’ The editors also offer a fairly comprehensive tour of contemporary poetic forms and modes, from mostly traditional lyrics and long poems to prose poems, concrete poems, colleges, and other pieces that might best be described as visual art with words, such as Robert Fitterman’s ‘Zoomburb.’” (Read the rest here.)
Please visit The Arcadia Project’s website for an evolving discussion about postmodern pastoral, new media related to the book, essays, and interviews. The website also includes a teacher’s guide for those using the book in their classes.
Such naked spines
by a few inches
Such earnest, green
in the intermittent
to produce a state
the sea coughs up
and swallows them
“This hefty and gorgeously designed anthology offers an unusual take on pastoral poetry, which might be defined as poems humbled by nature. The editors of this book gathered nature poems from contemporary experimental poets, many of them under 40 years old, to present the natural world through the eyes of, as Corey says in his introduction, ‘a digital native with dirt between one’s toes,’ representing a movement in poetry toward what is sometimes referred to as ‘ecopoetics.’ Many of these poems speak from a natural world in flux and crisis, registering the degradation of the environment from all angles as well as human encroachment on it: ‘Starlings in the magnolia tree crackle, static, lightning: a helicopter floats overhead,’ writes Susan Briante in ‘The End of Another Creature.’ Of course, they also sing nature’s beauty, as does John Taggart, who describes the ‘white deer the animal the true animal body no jewelry.’ The editors also offer a fairly comprehensive tour of contemporary poetic forms and modes, from mostly traditional lyrics and long poems to prose poems, concrete poems, colleges, and other pieces that might best be described as visual art with words, such as Robert Fitterman’s ‘Zoomburb.’ There is a lot here, from well-known writers like Brenda Hillman and Forrest Gander to up-and-comers like Amy King and John Beer. This could be the rare poetry anthology that sticks. (Jan.)”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“What emerges from the book is an incredible range in poetic vocabularies and geographical engagements . . . . The Arcadia Project is an exciting picture of the ecological diversity of North American poetry. Because the book features work published after 1995, I found poets familiar and unfamiliar to me. I expected to be delighted by Gustaf Sobin, John Taggart, Peter O’Leary, Will Alexander, and Merill Gilfillan, whose ‘Ten Carbonated Warblers’ —‘This is your chance / to sit back and sing // half hidden against the sky / being BLUE-WINGED’ — stood out in the anthology for its clarity as much as its unabashed musicality. Susan Briante, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Jane Sprague, Gabriel Gudding, and Sherwin Bistui — ‘a wren, shredded by the beaks of black birds, spins in the grip of its slipstream’ — were happily new to me.” —from the review by Nate Klug in The Economy
“Each of the anthology’s four parts approaches the “postmodern pastoral” by building on the previous section to help shape a coherent trajectory among so many poems. . . . The Arcadia Project is hopefully just the beginning of a series of anthologies that explore the ever-evolving construct of “nature” in North American poetry, and, perhaps, in other parts of the world as well. Trying to choose a few representative pieces that embody the collection may prove to be impossible, so readers should revisit the anthology often to discover and rediscover fresh, new poems that ask us to reconfigure our notions of nature’s place in everyday life. As Corey claims, this anthology serves as a ‘living and motile assemblage of what our best hopes for what poems can be: vessels of attention to the world and to language, attention at its most intense.’” –from the review by Alyse Bensel in the NewPages Book Reviews
“Wildness often appears abruptly in the city, confined to fenced gardens or small parks between apartment buildings. The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral redraws the boundaries between the wild and the urban, language and object, human and inhuman—and dwells where they converge. Each poem was chosen by editors Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep (who is also the judge for the 2013 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry) to be ‘vessels of attention to the world and to language . . . To be present, with/in the world, with/in words, in active relation to the living (and dying) environment.’ In the anthology published by Ahsahta Press, more than one hundred poets map their surroundings, eschewing nostalgia for what wasand observing the seen and unseen elements of the environment that is.” —from the review by Christianna Fritz in Milkweed Editions.
“My favorite selections are the longest ones. Such as Brian Teare’s ‘Transcendental Grammar Crown’ a ring of sonnets whose lines are widely spaced which is found grouped under (no surprise) ‘New Transcendentalisms.’ Teare’s poetry keeps what’s precious hanging delicately perched on tips of language’s beauty but rather miraculously avoids inflecting any damage upon itself, despite its risky behavior. Other notable lengthy poem-sequences, include: Jennifer Moxley’s ‘The Sense Record,’ Peter Gizzi’s ‘Some values of Landscape and Weather,’ Brenda Iijima’s ‘Panthering,’ Will Alexander’s ‘On Scorpions & Swallows,’ Juliana Spahr’s ‘Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache,’ Amy King’s ‘A Geography of Pleasure,’ and Stephen Collis’ ‘Blackberries.’” —from the review by Patrick James Dunagan in HTML Giant
“I’ve mentioned that this anthology is more than five hundred pages long, right? It’s incredible. There are one hundred four contributors, but what’s more remarkable is that the length of contributions ranges from one page to twenty-one. Many of the poems (including excerpts from longer projects) are short, spanning a couple of pages then moving to the next. But perhaps the most notable part of this anthology’s sheer length is that it allows room to print longer pieces: poems that require time to breathe, time for the reader to adjust to them, time to unfold and expand and contort back upon themselves and shift and warp. I was consistently swayed, even won over, by the longer poems printed in The Arcadia Project, even poems I began on the outside of. Indeed, looking back on my underlinings and embarrassingly-emphatic marginalia, many of them start on page three or four of these longer pieces: just around when I started, in retrospect, to acclimate to a voice, or to a set of ideas or logics that the poem spun out. . . . This is a masterfully curated anthology. I suspect that few people sit down with anthologies—particularly the ones wider than Paradise Lost—to read them from cover to cover. In this case, however, I highly recommend it. The careful curating of each section, and the conversation across sections, along with the sparseness of “extra” materials makes this an anthology that must, and can, and does speak mostly loudly through its poems and their sequence, their conversation.” —from the review by Hannah Ensor in Cutbank
Joshua Corey is the author most recently of Severance Songs (Tupelo Press, 2011), which won the Dorset Prize and was named a Notable Book of 2011 by the Academy of American Poets. His other books are Selah (Barrow Street Press, 2003) and Fourier Series (Spineless Books, 2005). He has recently completed his first novel and lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and daughter and teaches English at Lake Forest College.
G. C. Waldrep’s most recent full-length collections are Archicembalo (Tupelo, 2009), winner of the Dorset Prize, and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (BOA Editions, 2011), a collaboration with John Gallaher. His most recent chapbook is “St. Laszlo Hotel” (Projective
Industries, 2011). He lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Bucknell University, edits the journal West Branch, and serves as editor-at-large for The Kenyon Review.