New World Poetics

Nature and the Adamic Imagination of Whitman, Neruda, and Walcott

Title Details

Pages: 456

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 04/15/2010

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3520-9

List Price: $31.95

New World Poetics

Nature and the Adamic Imagination of Whitman, Neruda, and Walcott

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  • Description
  • Reviews

A simultaneously ecocritical and comparative study, New World Poetics plumbs the earthly depth and social breadth of the poetry of Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, and Derek Walcott, three of the Americas' most ambitious and epic-minded poets. In Whitman's call for a poetry of New World possibility, Neruda's invocation of an "American love," and Walcott's investment in the poetic ironies of an American epic, the adamic imagination of their poetry does not reinvent the mythical Garden that stands before history's beginnings but instead taps the foundational powers of language before a natural world deeply imbued with the traces of human time. Theirs is a postlapsarian Adam seeking a renewed sense of place in a biocentric and cross-cultural New World through language and nature's capacity for regeneration in the wake of human violence and suffering.

The book introduces the environmental history of the Americas and its relationship to the foundation of American and Latin American studies, explores its relevance to each poet's ambition to recuperate the New World's lost histories, and provides a transnational poetics of understanding literary influence and textual simultaneity in the Americas. The study provides much needed in-depth ecocritical readings of the major poems of the three poets, insisting on the need for thoughtful regard for the challenge to human imagination and culture posed by nature's regenerative powers; nuanced appreciation for the difficulty of balancing the demands of social justice within the context of deep time; and the symptomatic dangers as well as healing potential of human self-consciousness in light of global environmental degradation.

New World Poetics will be viewed as a foundational work because of its many, and remarkably perceptive, links among poetry, natural history, and political history. Handley's scholarship is impressive throughout, as he explores both North American and Latin American conceptions of the New World and illuminates the origins, potential, and limitations of American Studies as a discipline. This exciting book left me especially eager to voyage further into the literature of South America for myself.

—John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home

Joining Whitman with Neruda and Walcott under environmentalist scrutiny gives this book new reach and point. Handley aptly clarifies the poets' take on America's so-called and half-wasted New World. Unless we credit their human imaginative presence, no amount of science or policy will pull us through.

—John Felstiner, author of Translating Neruda

About the Author/Editor

GEORGE B. HANDLEY is a professor of humanities at Brigham Young University. His books include Postslavery Literatures in the Americas and Caribbean Literature and the Environment.