John Felstiner's book from Yale University Press asks, Can Poetry Save the Earth? In 40 brief chapters, Felstiner calls up voices that have most strongly spoken to and for the natural world. From Psalms through Dickinson, Whitman, and the Romantics to modern poets, Felstiner highlights the environmental consciousness that poetry can awaken in both its writers and its readers. Sixty color and black-and-white images, many seen for the first time, blend with historical, biographical and geographical information to explore and explain the environmental imagination that this book discovers—a poetic legacy more vital now than ever.
Professor Felstiner, at Stanford since 1965, teaches, translates and writes on modern poetry.
Felstiner started teaching at Stanford in 1965. He has also has taught at the University of Chile, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Yale University. Teaching North American poetry in Chile in 1967-68 led to Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu (1980), which won the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. This experience initiated Felstiner’s ongoing concern with the practice of literary translation. The British Comparative Literature Association gave 1st and 2nd prizes to his Pablo Neruda and Paul Celan translations.
During the 1970s Felstiner developed critical approaches to poetry by civilians and soldiers from the Vietnam era, and after teaching at the Hebrew University in Israel (1974-75), he began studying the literature, art, photography, and music that emerged from the European Jewish catastrophe. His book on the German-speaking Jewish poet, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Modern Language Association's James Russell Lowell Prize, and won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism in 1997. His Norton anthology of Celan’s work won MLA, ATA, and PEN prizes. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Felstiner's memoir of a brilliant student from the 1960s, Liz Wiltsee, who died as a homeless woman in 1999, inspired a popular documentary, "This Dust of Words."