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Field book: environmental activism and contemporary lyric poetry

Forster, Andrew (2018) Field book: environmental activism and contemporary lyric poetry. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Restricted to Repository staff only until 30 January 2022.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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Abstract

This practice-led thesis explores the ways that lyric poetry contributes to the understanding of the environmental crisis, through a collection of new poems and a critical exegesis. The poems develop the field of place-based nature poetry, specifically to address facets of the environmental crisis. They reflect on the ethical complexities of living in a time of environmental crisis, and highlight initiatives taken to alleviate the crisis. The poems seek to answer the question of whether poetry can be ideologically-driven while still being alert to the resonances of language within the lyric tradition. The second part of the thesis places the poems within an investigation of the critical context of ecopoetry, drawing on the work of Jonathan Bate, Terry Gifford, Leonard Scigaj, Tom Bristow and Sam Solnick. It points to recent criticism of the lyric, in the work of Timothy Morton, Timothy Clark and Matthew Griffiths, for its perceived inability to go beyond the immediate sensory environment and reflect the complexity of the environmental crisis. The thesis develops the criticism of Tom Bristow to highlight the contemporary lyric as being ideally placed to explore the human dimension of the environmental crisis, in the way it articulates complex layers of thought and feeling, inviting the reader to share in the poet’s explorations. The thesis highlights a difference in tradition between Britain and America, which has a longer tradition of more direct ecopoetry, and draws out common threads of ‘activist’ poetry from the poems and critical prose of Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, John Kinsella and Ted Hughes. It explores the way that these poets have approached issues around conservation, as a key concern of this thesis, and highlights techniques in their work that I seek to develop further in my lyric poems. It finishes with a detailed discussion of my collection of poems, in which I situate the engagement of the poems into the critical context, broadly conceived, of ecopoetry.

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