Scientist Co-Edits New
Green Poetry Collection
Look to poets to help answer difficult questions about restoration ecology, says environmental scientist
BY ANDREW VOWLES
Stressing the links between nature and humans is a key theme in a new anthology of contemporary Canadian ecological poetry co-edited by Prof. Madhur Anand, School of Environmental Sciences (SES).
Released this month, Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry includes new works by Canadian poets from St. John’s to Nanaimo and by one writer living in New England. The book is published by Your Scrivener Press in Sudbury.
Consisting of contributions from 33 writers, this is the first anthology of contemporary Canadian poetry on restoration ecology and environmental issues, says Anand. Her co-editor is Adam Dickinson, who teaches English at Brock University.
A book launch and signing will be held in collaboration with Café Scientifique Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Bookshelf downtown. The event is open to the public and will include readings by U of G philosophy professor Karen Houle, author of two volumes of poetry; Toronto artist and writer Erin Robinsong; Hamilton writer John Terpstra, author of seven books of poetry; and Cornelia Hoogland, who has published five books and whose previous work has been short-listed for the CBC Literary Awards.
The launch is sponsored by SES and U of G’s Arts, Science and Technology Research Alliance.
Comparing the scientific method with a poet’s approach, “you can get to truths in different ways,” says Anand, who believes scientists reading these pieces may gain unforeseen insights from their language and images. Other readers may learn more about environmental issues or see those concerns in a new way, she says.
“We may need to look to the poets for the answers to some of the most difficult questions about restoration ecology.”
Prof. Jonathan Newman, SES director, says looking at ecology through artists’ eyes may help readers reflect on how humans fit into their environment. “It’s a different way of viewing the things we’re involved in.”
Anand and Dickinson chose diverse poems that reflect on nature and natural beauty, depictions of environmental problems, and literary experiments that may offer potential solutions. Anand says a key sentiment is that, for good or ill, humans are entwined with nature.
Ecologists study how organisms interact, says Anand, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Ecological Change.
“Poets examine inner human truths. Poets and ecologists can collaborate, but we are just at the beginning of this kind of collaboration.”
She herself is a published poet whose works often address science or ecology. This year, her works have appeared in a Canadian-themed issue of the American literary magazine Interim as well as in Grain and Vallum. Neither she nor Dickinson contributed poems to Regreen, but both wrote introductions to the book.
Anand’s work also appears in another new book, The Shape of Content: Creative Writing in Mathematics and Science, launched this week at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Science in Toronto. The anthology includes poems, short stories and play excerpts from writers affiliated with the Banff Centre for the Arts.