The anthropocene is the current geological age, the period since humans have had the dominant influence on our climate and environment. It seems to me that this editor, Jessica Cory, an English professor at Western Carolina University, actually is looking at nature writing in a much more recent time, perhaps a more appropriate sub-title would have used “in the 21st Century.” But even that would be inaccurate. Missing are not just writers of previous generations like Emma Bell Miles, Effie Waller Smith, Marilou Awiakta, and Wilma Dykeman, but influential contemporary nature poets like Jeff Mann, Clyde Kessler, Ron Rash and Robert Morgan and contemporary activists like Emily Satterwhite and Pat Banks, let alone Gary Cummisk who published the pamphlet Appalachian Nature Writing in 1988, Donald Davis who published Where There Are Mountains, An Environmental History of the Southern Mountains in 2003, or Drew Swanson who published Beyond the Mountains in 2018. This book is clearly not an attempt to consider the canon of regional nature writing or to convey the key works and people who expanded regional environmental awareness even in recent times. The emphasis in this book, perhaps appropriately, is on emerging nature writers, like Jesse Graves and doris davenport and their lesser-known contemporaries. There is much here to enjoy and learn from, and many writers here to celebrate and help raise from obscurity. Yet it is still jarring to me to have a book like this, with a title that implies an overview, without a serious short essay putting some context to the subject and paying tribute to its pioneers.
Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2019. 347 pages. Trade paperback.