Any poetry anthology, in any field, inevitably owes something to those anthologies that have gone before it. But with Earth Shattering, Neil Astley has set out to do something rather different not just moving us well beyond the canon of nature poetry (which a number of other anthologies have also sought to do over the last few years), but by digging much deeper into the complexities of the historical relationship between humankind and the living Earth that sustains us, reflected in a highly contemporaneous and politically relevant way. That will certainly appeal to environmental activists who will already be familiar with many of the poets featured in Earth Shattering. But they will discover a whole lot more than that in this astonishingly eclectic and wide-ranging anthology... The work of each of the poets featured in the anthology is properly contextualised, the significance of their wider work briefly explained, and hugely helpful insights provided into motivation and, occasionally, interpretation. As our world's politicians and corporations orchestrate our headlong rush towards Eco-Armageddon, poetry may seem like a hopeless gesture. But Earth Shattering shows that the power of poetry is in the detail, in the force of each individual poem, in every poem s effect on every reader. And anyone whose resolve is stirred will strengthen the collective call for change. --Jonathan Porritt
Now at last, and rather suddenly, we have two very different anthologies which seem to be working in a new way. They make space for both the work of poetics and the work poetry does. Interestingly, each does this by mapping who is working in a particular area and then arranging that work thematically. Neil Astley's Earth Shattering defines itself as an anthology of ecopoems, and goes on to define sometimes geo-historically, sometimes in intellectual or thematic terms, sometimes through poetics the various forms of ecopoetry. To browse it is to gain an impression of tremendous richness; to read it from cover to cover is to experience the development of a series of moments into a movement: of isolated practices into a new, and potentially global, perspective... Astley's Earth Shattering falls into nine sections, from Rooted in Nature to Natural Disasters , each tracing an aspect of twenty-first century thinking about nature, the planet and our threatened environment and supplemented by contextualising comments: notes on further critical and poetic reading and biographies. It's the approach poemsmake to these topics, rather than their message, which for Astley indicates ecopoetics. There's nothing anachronistic in his tracing what we might crudely term a quality of attention as much in sixth century China as in the rapidly-changing eighteenth and nineteenth century England of Goldsmith, Clare, Wordsworth and Barnes or Anglo-American poetry of the nuclear age. This question of approach is the signature of the anthology itself, as it is of Language for a New Century. It seems to suggest a new seriousness in poetry: and an understanding that poetry can and does engage with the world and lead our thinking about it. A short review can t do any justice to the richnessof content of these important books. And, perhaps, neither should it. As both suggest through their methodology, you need to pay those contents proper attention yourself. Buy them, read them and remember, as that title itself says: these are poems for, not merely from, new and complex times. --Fiona Sampson, Poetry Review
About the Author
NEIL ASTLEY is editor of Bloodaxe Books. He has published several other anthologies, including Staying Alive, Being Alive, Do Not Go Gentle, Passionfood, and (with Pamela Robertson-Pearce) Soul Food and In Person, as well as two eco-novels, The End of My Tether (Scribner), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2002, and The Sheep Who Changed the World (Flambard, 2005). He lives in Northumberland.