Much of the language that makes up Better Nature--the first book-length poetry collection by writer and academic Fenn Stewart--is drawn from a diary that Walt Whitman wrote while travelling through Canada at the end of the nineteenth century.
But rather than waxing poetic about the untouched Great White North, Stewart inlays found materials (early settler archives, news stories, email spam, fundraising for environmental NGOs, and more) to present a unique view of Canada's "pioneering" attitude towards "wilderness"--one that considers deeper issues of the settler appropriation of Indigenous lands, the notion of terra nullius, and the strategies and techniques used to produce a "better nature" (that is, one that better serves the nation).
Praise for Better Nature:
"With linguistic fervor, dancing intellect, and blissful urgency Stewart unveils the seemingly everyday horrors of our cruelly optimistic (would be) unsettling lands. --Liz Howard, Griffin Poetry Prize-winning author of Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent
"These vibrant, looping poems call on readers to wander through error as Stewart exposes the colonial hankerings that underpin the vocabularies of natural science, of romantic poetry, of the confession." --Shannon Maguire, author of fur(l) parachute and Myrmurs: An Exploded Sonnet
"With bounding lines that seamlessly blend the archival with the contemporary, Better Nature stitches together its source material with precision. The result is pure poetic wit and a timely perspective on the shaping of Canada's landscape." --This Magazine