Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street, assistant professor of English at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., co-edited the critically acclaimed anthology, which was released in February and is considered the most extensive compilation of ecopoetry produced by America’s poets.
“Ecopoetry is poetry that responds to the environmental crisis in one way or another,” said Fisher-Wirth, who directs the university’s minor in environmental studies. “Poetry has the power to open people’s minds and hearts. We cherish what we care about.”
“The Ecopoetry Anthology” contains works from more than 200 poets ranging from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to UM faculty, students and alumni. It features a historical section of poetry written before 1960, as well as contemporary poetry including work from UM English instructor Gary Short, Fisher-Wirth, MFA student Tim Earley and MFA alumnus Chris Hayes.
Fisher-Wirth said the idea for the collection grew from her work with the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, an organization with more than 1,000 members in the United States, and nine international affiliated organizations.
“I became aware that there are a lot of poets who are writing about human interrelations with the other-than-human world and addressing the environmental crisis,” Fisher-Wirth said. “Many people don’t realize how much the environment’s health correlates with our own well-being, but we are ecosystems. We are always in ecosystems.”
The book contains an introduction from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Hass, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1995 to 1997.
It will be taught in UM courses including English 362: American Environmental Literature 1850-Present and in other poetry and/or environmental studies courses.