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 Essay Collection Review   



Elemental South: An Anthology of Southern Nature Writing
Edited by Dorinda G. Dallmeyer
University of Georgia Press, 2004
Paperback, $16.95 (153 pages)
ISBN: 0-8203-2689-5

The University of Georgia Press continues to produce books of interest concerning southern nature writing, the latest being Elemental South. This volume is less an anthology proper (one that culls the best of what has been written on a subject) and more a concerted intervention on behalf of a group of writers, some southern by birth, others by choice, who began meeting in the late 1990s and have since shaped particular pieces now assembled into this collection.  

Edited by the environmental scholar Dorinda G. Dallmeyer, Elemental South uses a four fold scheme of organization—earth, air, fire, water—that some readers will appreciate who prefer a coherent structure. An epilogue, “Why We Write,” concludes the volume. Other readers may wonder why a more organic structure, considering the subject, was not employed. 

The pieces collected here range from highly personal confessions and autobiographical poems to eco-historical studies, geological accounts, and activist essays. The book sustains a tension between the perception that nature has retreated into ever diminishing island oases that require vigilance and protection on the one hand, and a sense of the interrelatedness of all life and being that is the hallmark of nature writing. 

Some writers love nature more than us . . . there are writers on the natural world that, more so than the rest of us, slow down, pause, consider, venture into the wild, and love their places in it more than the rest of us do. There are other writers, activists by trade, who seem to love the rest of us less that they might love nature more. Discovering their own unspoiled location for a self-imposed exile away from the madding crowd characterizes their expressive work. 

There are fine pieces in Elemental South to suit every species of enthusiast for nature writing, environmental writing, southern writing, and literature of the human condition.


Vince Brewton
Southern Scribe Reviews


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