Anthology of Environmental Poetry of SARAS with Significant Acceptance in the United States
In March, 2015, SARAS Board Member and current SARAS co-director Professor Laurie Beth Clark asked American writer, poet and translator, current board member of SARAS Jesse Lee Kercheval about involving poets in the next SARAS conference. Kercheval proposed editing a bilingual anthology of poems about the environment, with poets from the anthology then participating in the conference. SARAS sponsored a competition for the best eco-poetry by Argentinian and Uruguayan with the three winners of the prizes, Premios de Poesía de SARAS, attending the conference in Maldonado that coming March.
“I put out a call for poems and received a rich abundance of submissions, with poems that praised nature as well as ones that detailed the destruction being done to the trees, aquifers, rivers and widelife of the two countries or made explicit pleas for a more sustainable future. I chose the ten poets for inclusion, then the judge for the competition, Chilean poet Marcelo Pelligrini, selected the prize winners: Natalia Romero, Buenos Aires, Argentina, was awarded the first prize; Sebastián Rivero, Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay, the second prize; and Virginia Lucas of Montevideo, Uruguay, the third prize.” Jesse Lee Keverkal
As editor, Keverclal arranged for the translation of the work from Spanish to English for the bilingual anthology and Earth, Water and Sky/ Tierra, Agua y Cielo was co-published in Uruguay by SARAS and Editorial Yaugarú in February, 2016.
On March 1, 2016, the prize winning poets, Natalia Romero, Sebastián Rivero, Virginia Lucas and I attended the conference in Maldanado and they read their work to a crowded auditorium of scientists, students, and scholars. Later, following the day of presentations open to the public, the poems were used in the smaller workshops that SARAS conducted. On March 2, there was a second reading from the anthology in Montevideo, with seven of the ten poets in the anthology participating. This second reading introduced this important eco-poetry to a larger public and helped make more people aware of SARAS and its the mission.
But interest in the anthology, and SARAS’s work on environmental issues, did not stop after the conference. Poems from the anthology were published in the U.S. by World Literature Today (https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/blog/road/scientific-poetry-poetic-scientists), the Adirondack Review and the Michigan Quarterly Review. “Otter,” by first prize winner Natalia Romero, was chosen by Poetry Daily, an important site that selected the best of poetry published in the U.S., as the Poem of the Day. The anthology was reviewed in the U.S. as well, including this review (https://literarytranslators.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/sustainability-in-translation-review-of-earth-water-and-sky-an-anthology-of-environmental-poetry/) which ends by saying “Earth, Water and Sky: An Anthology of Environmental Poetry is an incredibly moving synthesis of art and the issues that beset [the environment] . . . SARAS goal, using poetry to exhibit nature and the hopes for a sustainable future, is wonderfully executed.
“Since the anthology’s publication in Uruguay I have read poems from Earth, Water, Sky: A Bilingual Anthology of Environmental Poetry at invited readings at the American Literary Translators Association convention, Stanford University, Washington and Lee University, the University of Dubuque, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Utah, and Tulane University and at bookstores from New York City to Iowa City to Berkeley. The response from students, professors and the general public has always been positive, with many teachers interested in using the poems in their classes.” Jesse Lee Cheverkal
Then in February, 2017, thanks to the support of SARAS, Virginia Lucas, one of the prize winning poets from the anthology, went to the U.S. for a reading tour that started with visits to classes and a reading at James Madison University which also included Seth Michelson, the translator for Natalia Romero, reading her work. Virginia Lucas also attended the Associated Writing Programs and Writers Convention in Washington. D.C. This is an annual conference that draws 12,000 writers from around the U.S. and the world. Virginia was part of a panel at the conferences and a Dialogos Books signing for Earth, Water and Sky a t the conference Book Fair which also included the translators from the anthology Ron Salutsky, Catherine Jagoe, Seth Michelson and Laura Cesarco Eglin.
In University Wisconsin-Madison, Virginia gave a talk for the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program and a reading for the Program in Creative Writing where students from the MFA in Creative Writing read other poems from the Earth, Water and Sky anthology by the poets Natalia Romero, Sebastian Rivero, Tatiana Oroño, Maria Sanchez and Ignacio Fernandez Palleja. Then drove to Notre Dame University where Virginia held a question and answer session with students and read at the university bookstore. The final stop on the tour was New York City where we met with the Consul General Pauline Davies at the Uruguayan Consulate, then had a reading at McNally Jackson Books.
“ I have just returned from three events in Miami, an Art Talk as part of the program Escribe Aqui that was attended by the Uruguayan Consul General of Miami María Lourdes Boné Dadalt, a class with students at the University of Miami and a reading at the bookstore Books and Books in Coral Gables. On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, there will be an official book launch reading for the U.S. edition of the anthology as part of the New Orleans Poetry Festival. Luis Bravo and Martín Barea Mattos will participate along with myself and translator Mark Statman. We will also take part in other events at the festival and will give a reading at Tulane University. April 27, there will be another reading from the anthology at the Arts and Literature Lab in Madison, Wisconsin.June 20-24, 2017, I plan to attend the The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference: Rust/Resistance: Works of Recovery. The conference will be held at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I will participate in the conference’s Author’s Night to talk about Earth, Water and Sky and also participate in a mid-conference workshop “To Feel and to Know: The Art and Science of Environmental Writing. The interest in Earth, Water and Sky and in SARAS continues to grow.”
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Jesse Lee Kercheval
Zona Gale Professor of Poetry
Director, Program in Creative Writing
University of Wisconsin-Madison
SARAS Board Member