Originally, my vision for this issue focused on how marginalized people engage with the natural world. While that theme certainly emerges in the following poems and prose, another vines its way through these pieces as well. Woven throughout this special issue is a question about humanity’s relationship with nature and with each other, about how we attempt to hold claim on wilderness — in small and huge ways — to heal our wounds, to curb our discomforts, to escape ourselves, or to conquer a corner of the Earth and all it holds. The question echoing throughout the issue also explores how nature rewards and punishes us in equal measure for our attempts to claim it.
“What’s mine of wilderness?” Jane Satterfield asks in her poem “Gigan for a Pandemic Winter.” She and eleven other writers featured in this special issue contemplate that question in some way. They understand that nature is our savior and sentencer both.
Climate change and environmental degradation are not far from these writers’ minds. They laugh at the absurdity of our humanness squaring up against the scope of the wilds; they rebuke our attempts to tame and to divorce ourselves from the natural world. Pandemic and drought and storm, fire and flood and ice: human-induced climate change has simply turned the dial up on all the natural forces we’ve tried to protect ourselves against for centuries.
What’s mine of wilderness? Nothing.
And yet there is joy and awe in these pieces, too, the very emotions that the natural world has stirred in humanity for millennia. These writers marvel at the floral revolutions fought in a patch of dirt, they gawk at the grotesque and graceful beauty of wildlife, and they embrace the pummeling curl of an ocean wave. They celebrate that the human and natural worlds are not separate at all, that we are no less wild than anything else that springs from the Earth.
What’s mine of wilderness? Everything.
I am thrilled at the 12 talented voices in this issue. Their writing stunned me, delighted me, haunted me; I hope they do the same for you.