Rebecca Dunham is a poet and Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches creative writing. Her work has been described as post-confessional and concerns itself with feminist and ecological issues. Her most recent publication, Cold Pastoral, is a collection of poems based on modern ecological disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She has published four other collections of poetry, including Fascicle, Glass Armonica, The Miniature Room, and The Flight Cage.
Q: What does Cold Pastoral mean, for you? What do you hope readers gain after reading the poems?
Personally, the book marks a point in my life when I had to take stock of my place in the world around me, as well as the function of poetry within that world. For readers, I hope that the poet-speaker’s journey will resonate with those of us who may mean well, but who have also blinded ourselves to the mounting human and environmental crises around us. I would hope that the book will encourage readers to consider their responsibility to others, as well as potential for language and literature to enact change. Continue reading
Dunham’s poetry comes to us at a desperate time. We currently face the ecological threats of global warming, as exacerbated by our human interactions with the world we inhabit. Pollution, over-population, and deforestation are serious hazards to our environment, and Dunham understands our human contribution to the problem. With her poems, she hopes to educate and inform readers of the very real consequences of forgetting to care for the Earth.
This collection examines the man-made and/or human-influenced natural disasters of our time: the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath, and the Flint water crisis. Dunham tactfully weaves desolate poems with evidenciary support, creating a powerful report on what really happened with the Oil Spill. Continue reading
Henry David Thoreau is considered by many to be the environmental father of the green movement. As a teacher, scientist, historian, student, author, and naturalist, Thoreau has made a number of contributions to the ecological movement, his most significant including his own personal published reflections on conservation and his search for the meaning of life through the relationship he had with nature. His published works have “helped to launch the American environmental movement that continues to this day,” (Weiner, 30) and understanding Thoreau is key to conservation efforts today. Thoreau offers counsel and example exactly suited for our perilous moment in time: By studying Thoreau and putting his ideals into practice, we can overcome the challenges facing the modern environment.
Henry David Thoreau, disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson, sought isolation and nearness to nature. In his writings he suggests that all living things have rights that humans should recognize, implying that we have a responsibility to respect and care for nature rather than destroying it. Thoreau proclaims, “Every creature is better alive than dead, men moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it” (Neimark, 94).