Representation and Accessibility at the Forefront of New Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology

By Bella Crum

Ghost Fishing, an Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, is a three section collection that came out of University of Georgia Press on April 1st of this year. The term "ghost fishing" is the name for what happens when improperly discarded fishing gear is left to float through the ocean, trapping and killing a tragic amount of sea life in its path. The anthology takes this term for its name, alongside a blue-grey ramshackled industrial scene on the cover, setting readers up to think gloomily about safety, displacement and destruction.

This anthology took off in its ability to make both eco-justice and poetry feel accessible and relatable. At the forefront of this is the well sought out inclusion of diverse cultural and identity representations in the poets and their topics. Compiling a truly representational book of ecologically and socially aware poetry from a subject historically shadowed by cliché dead white men musing about flowers is no small feat. In doing so, editor Melissa Tuckey helped correct the cliché and successfully acknowledged readers who have felt their narratives on this topic were broadly unheard and unaccounted for up until this point.

To add to this, the use of plain language in the thoughtful forewords placed before each section offered a way in for every reader. These brief introductions were something that stood out, as they did not necessarily seek to teach, as many anthologies do. Instead, they opened a window into what each author intended and why the poem was included in the anthology, thus allowing the poetry to do the teaching. By effectively piecing together each poem’s relationship with eco-justice using direct language and annotated excerpts, the anthology became accessible to a wide variety of readers — regardless of if they had experience interacting with poetry or not.

I was thoroughly surprised by how eco-justice was continually defined and redefined throughout the anthology. Integrating racism, native peoples and land, war, human and animal connections, and food in one cohesive collection is a union I didn’t know I was waiting for. By including such a wide range of topics, people are able to relate and by virtue, can envision themselves as a player in the conversation surrounding eco-justice.

Reading this anthology was refreshing, and I have already recommended it to many of my fellow writers who muse on topics ranging from race and culture to trauma and the natural environment. Ghost Fishing houses a range of insightful voices that create a powerhouse resource for socially and ecologically aware narratives, illustrating that eco-justice concerns us all. Not only is this book for poets, but it is a book for anyone who lives anywhere, seeking to better understand eco-justice and its many manifestations through the power of poetry.  

Courtesy or UGA Press

Courtesy or UGA Press