Organized as a field guide, a literary anthology filled with classic and contemporary poems and essays inspired by wildflowers – perfect for writers, artists, and botanists alike
American Wildflowers: A Literary Field Guide collects poems, essays, and letters from the 1700s to the present that focus on wildflowers and their place in our culture and in the natural world. Editor Susan Barba has curated a selection of plants and texts that celebrate diversity: There are foreign-born writers writing about American plants and American writers on non-native plants. There are rural writers with deep regional knowledge and urban writers who are intimately acquainted with the nature in their neighbourhoods. There are female writers, Black writers, gay writers, and indigenous writers. There are botanists like William Bartram, George Washington Carver, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, and horticultural writers like Neltje Blanchan and Eleanor Perényi. There are prose pieces by Aldo Leopold, Lydia Davis, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. And most of all, there are poems: from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams and T. S. Eliot to Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley, Lucille Clifton and Louise Glück, Natalie Diaz and Jericho Brown.
The book includes exquisite watercolours by Leanne Shapton throughout and is organized by species and botanical family – think of it as a field guide to the literary imagination.
Susan Barba is a poet, translator, and editor for the New York Review of Books. She is the author of Fair Sun (2017) and Geode (2020), a finalist for the New England Book Awards, and the Massachusetts Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Yale Review, Antioch Review, Raritan, and Harvard Review. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Leanne Shapton is an artist, writer, and publisher. Her illustrations appear on many book covers, including Women in Clothes, a collaborative project with Sheila Heti and Heidi Julavits on fashion, and her own Swimming Studies, which won the 2012 National Book Critic's Circle Award for autobiography. She is the co-founder of art-house publisher J&L Books alongside photographer Jason Fulford, and lives in New York City.
"A luminous selection of essays, poems, and letters that leap and bound through mood, time and place, with writers of every shape and form from America's foundation years to the present day"
– Financial Times
"A sensitive but substantial florilegium of poems, essays, and letters from the 1700s to the present about wildflowers and their place in this world past, present, and future [...] The collection as a whole reminds us how lucky we are to share the world with this variety of shape and color, and to open our eyes to what grows on the side of the highway, between cracks in the sidewalk, along the riverbank."
– Boston Globe
"A significant addition to the tradition of writing about plants, this anthology urges us to notice the lessons offered by the tiniest bluet."
– Bookpage, starred review
"This anthology offers a rich compendium of classic and contemporary writings inspired by wildflowers [...] a prismatic and dynamic work."
– Publishers Weekly