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82 Western American Literature The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature. Edited by Christopher Merrill. (Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1991. 176 pages, $14.95.) Reviewing an anthology always presents special problems. With so many authors (93) and works (149), what does one praise or blame? A reviewer must look instead at how well the editor’s purposes are realized. The editor’s intro­ duction here makes his purpose clear: “. . . what these poems suggest in their various ways is the need to respect the earth, which has suffered so much at our hands.”His program is environmental; his medium is poetic. He acknowledges “a political component embedded in the tradition of nature poetry,”but this is more implicit than overt. Does the anthology succeed? For the most part, yes. It contains fine poems that provide insights into our relationship with nature. One might mention Sandra Alcosser’s bear poems, and A. R. Ammons’s “Corson’s Inlet,” about form in nature and art. Philip Booth’s “How to See Deer,”Joseph Bruchac’s “Cattail Wind,” Christopher Buckley’s “Sparrows,” John Daniel’s “Common Ground,” and James Dickey’s “The Last Wolverine” are notable. Hayden Carruth’s “Essay” looks both at nature and nature poetry. Gary Snyder’s and William Stafford’s poems are wonderful as usual. Some few selections, however, seem out of place, out of harmony. Aga Shahid Ali’s “Leaving Sonora,”Ralph Angel’s “It Could Have Been More,”and Douglas Crase’s “The Revisionist” use natural images, but they are not nature poetry. Wendell Berry’s delightful “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” is not nature poetry. Compare it with Michael Pettit’s “Neat New Eng­ land Fields,”with the same theme but looking directly at humanity’s relation­ ship with nature. Norman Dubie’s “Elegy to the Sioux”is not a nature poem, in contrast with Louise Erdrich’s “I Was Sleeping Where Black Oaks Move,”which is a nature poem, from a Native American angle of vision. One might question why Donald Hall’s poem about draft horses, or Maxine Kumin’s about selling a domestic lamb for slaughter, are included. Such lapses in focus are distracting. Nevertheless, for those who care about humanity’s relationship with nature, and feel the power of poetry, this is a worthwhile and sometimes moving book. PAUL T. BRYANT Radford University Nightsoil. By Levi Peterson. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990. 192 pages, $14.95.) There is a quiet movement afoot in western literature to forge a missing link, and perhaps without even knowing it or wanting to be, Levi Peterson is one of the strongest forces in that movement. ...


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