Rebecca Dunham is the author of Cold Pastoral and three previous collections of poems, including Glass Armonica, winner of the 2013 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, and The Miniature Room, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review, AGNI, and others. Her work has been supported through numerous fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, and the Ruth Halls Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Dunham holds an MFA in Poetry from George Mason University and a PhD in English from the University of Missouri. She is currently Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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Books by Rebecca Dunham
Author Q & A
How would you describe Cold Pastoral?
The spine of Cold Pastoral is its documentation and meditation on the British Petroleum oil spill of 2010, as well as the legacy of the devastation wrought in its wake on both humans and the environment. The poetry is grounded in the lyric tradition of the pastoral and elegy, but reworked to accommodate the language of field notes and interviews, many conducted by the poet herself, as well as public documents like BP’s “Initial Exploration Report.”
While grounded in a consideration of the Macondo oil spill, Cold Pastoral expands its scope to consider other ecological issues, as well: climate change, species extinction, Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds, and even the contemporary water crisis in Flint, MI. The book’s fusing of these seemingly disparate topics highlights the interconnectedness of them all.
What prompted you to write Cold Pastoral?
I have always felt very invested in the natural world and concerned (an understatement!) about the impact of humans upon it. I have always hiked and camped, and even spent a summer in my 20s backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Growing up on the coast of Maine, the ocean and the human interdependence on it has also been in the forefront of my mind.
The book really began with my concern and outrage about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My parents now live in this area, so when the spill happened, I think I felt more compelled to write about it than previous environmental disasters.