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Michael Walsh ed. Queer Nature (Autumn House, 2022, £20.00)

Queer Nature, a new anthology of queer ecopoetry edited by poet Michael Walsh and published this year by Autumn House, is generous in its abundance. Spanning three centuries and three hundred plus pages, this collection does not suffer from brevity. Rather, Walsh’s curation is Whitmanian in its inclusivity; it is a collection meant to cover a lot of ground; to fill an apparent void in the canon of ecopoetry; as a curative to correct the record when it comes to queer representation in nature writing.

In this way it joins the company of another volume, Camille Dungy’s excellently curated Black Nature, (University of Georgia Press, 2009, $26.95) published a little over a decade earlier, and which covers some of the same queer terrain as Queer Nature, but centers black American voices from a wider time frame— from slavery to present, as Queer Nature’s aperture of mid-19th century on. Both volumes are very American, and while this makes sense for Black Nature it feels a bit more like an afterthought in Queer Nature, which perhaps could have benefited from a subtitle identifying it’s US-centric leanings.

Other recent anthologies of queer writing, most notably Queering the Green: Post-2000 Queer Irish Poetry (Edited by Paul Maddern) but also 100 Queer Poems (edited by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan) both of which were published on the other side of the Atlantic, do a much better job at articulating these stakes. Queering The Green sticks to Ireland and doesn’t pretend to represent the global state of queer ecopoetics. 100 Queer Poems is a fascinating collection of queer poetry from all over the world. It includes American poets without centering them as the pre-eminent voices in queer writing. And what a relief: America is not the world, even if Queer Nature might ask us to think so.

Queer Nature and Black Nature both offer a radical read of that troublesome noun we call nature. Re-contextualizing the so-called natural world through queer and black poetics these collections complicate and disrupt the typical western, patriarchal, white supremicist and JudeoChristian worldview that demands we consider nature as separate from humanity, and insists on humanity’s domination over it. This work, of revisioning nature through queer and black poetics, is aligned with an awakening of black and queer voices asserting themselves in the culture and the associated backlash. While the rallying cry of ‘Black lives matter’ has been met by certain segments of the population with reactionary protests that ‘all’ or ‘blue’ lives matter and with military-style actions against black and allied protestors, the queering of the natural world, particularly the mass uncloseting of trans and nonbinary people, has also been met with state violence in the form of legislation designed to control the bodies of queer people, police our identities, and with political threats to revert from 21st century legal progress back to the deeply phobic dark ages of the 20th century’s prohibitions on gay sex, gay marriage, and even inter-racial marriage. It turns out questioning the nature of nature is a touchy subject for straight, white, Christian westerners, who seem to be feeling particularly fragile these days, but this follows a type of paranoialaden reasoning: nature is, afterall, a concept that is among the most essential to who we (think we) are.

Human nature. The natural order. Nature finds a way. A sign at one local community garden in the city I call home reads ‘nature is always right’ (emphasis added). People of all stripes and walks of life have deeply rooted conceptions of what nature is, who and what should be included or excluded. Black, queer, indigenous, and many

69 POETRY WALES

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