Friday, July 13, 2018

'New Jersey Poem' and Eco-Justice Poetry

Ghost Fishing (University of Georgia Press, 2018) is the first anthology to focus solely on poetry with an eco-justice bent. A culturally diverse collection entering a field where nature poetry anthologies have historically lacked diversity, this book presents a rich terrain of contemporary environmental poetry with roots in many cultural traditions.

Eco-justice poetry is poetry born of deep cultural attachment to the land and poetry born of crisis. Aligned with environmental justice activism and thought, eco-justice poetry defines environment as “the place we work, live, play, and worship.” This is a shift from romantic notions of nature as a pristine wilderness outside ourselves toward recognition of the environment as home: a source of life, health, and livelihood.

Ghost Fishing is arranged by topic at key intersections between social justice and the environment such as exile, migration, and dispossession; war; food production; human relations to the animal world; natural resources and extraction; environmental disaster; and cultural resilience and resistance. This anthology seeks to expand our consciousness about the interrelated nature of our experiences and act as a starting point for conversation about the current state of our environment.

Contributors include Homero Aridjis, Brenda Cárdenas, Natalie Diaz, Camille T. Dungy, Martín Espada, Ross Gay, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Joy Harjo, Brenda Hillman, Linda Hogan, Philip Metres, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tolu Ogunlesi, Wang Ping, Patrick Rosal, Tim Seibles, Danez Smith, Arthur Sze, Eleanor Wilner, and Javier Zamora.


In New Jersey, with one of the highest cancer rates
in the nation, with its brownfields
and chemical dumps, with its rivers that reek
of death and floating sewage, with its air tainted

by the coal-burning plants in Ohio, with its towns
where all the trees are dying, there are
moments still when I can look beyond
the surface of all the ruin we have brought

to the earth, and see again some of the world
I remember, the daisies and Black-eyed Susans
that seeded the vacant lots of my childhood,
the sky crammed full of stars, the air

so clean I would breathe it in and sigh, the snow
that fell in thick flakes that we ate sprinkled
with sugar and coffee after we scooped it
from the ground into cups. If the air and earth

were already destroyed then we didn't know,
licking this fresh-fallen snow off a spoon,
unaware that the world we were given
was not the one we'd pass on.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, originally appeared in Ancestor's Song

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

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