Water’s Edge: Writing on Water Edited by Lenore Manderson and Forrest Gander

Water’s Edge: Writing on Water Edited by Lenore Manderson and Forrest Gander

Lenore Manderson was one of the primary appeals of this collection for me. Having read some of her historical scholarship I was intrigued about this diversion into water as a subject. Her collaboration with the poet, Forrest Gander, also made me pause over this title.

I am not sure what I expected, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Water’s Edge is less a work of scholarship than an academic, literary contemplation on climate change, the significance of water, and the role of water in the intimate spaces of our lives. The collection is vast in its scope, though narrowly focused on its topic, water: poems, visuals, images, photographs, sociological and anthropological essays on researching water, and essays on the ways in which we move water and how it moves us.

My favorite — and indeed one of the most surprising essays — was not on water directly, but on chickenshit. I will say no more, but that incongruity may intrigue you as much as it did me. The reward was immediate. There is more connection between water and chickenshit than I gave credence to before reading this essay, not that I paid much attention to chicken excrement…

Indeed many of the essays and poems in Water’s Edge are rewarding and quickly so; they are short, spanning only a few pages each at most. Their length makes this a quick and flowing read, not unlike a river (perhaps that was intentional!)

As for the intended audience of this work… It is academic; its language and form are designed for an aesthetically sensitive mind, one that is poetic and will appreciate the nuances of a breath or the sensation of a light spray of water. The reader should expect to work for their reward. The content is intellectual and demands a certain degree of effort to excavate some of the deeper meanings embedded in the text. I would expect no less from poets and scholars. That said, I could see this text yield fantastic discussion and organic analysis in a social science graduate or upper level undergraduate seminar. The content, language, and complexity allow for reflection on multiple levels. Poetry and literature are excellent fodder for analysis; I use novels in my history courses frequently.

A very thoughtful read on water and our future with this quotidian, essential substance.

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