1st Edition

The Zen of Ecopoetics Cosmological Imaginations in Modernist American Poetry

By Enaiê Mairê Azambuja Copyright 2024
    206 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is the first comprehensive study investigating the cultural affinities and resonances of Zen in early twentieth-century American poetry and its contribution to current definitions of ecopoetics, focusing on four key poets: William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and E.E. Cummings.

    Bringing together a range of texts and perspectives and using an interdisciplinary approach that draws on Eastern and Western philosophies, including Zen and Taoism, posthumanism and new materialism, this book adds to and extends the field of ecocriticism into new debates. Its broad approach, informed by literary studies, ecocriticism, and religious studies, proposes the expansion of ecopoetics to include the relationship between poetic materiality and spirituality. It develops ‘cosmopoetics’ as a new literary-theoretical concept of the poetic imagination as a contemplative means to achieving a deeper understanding of the human interdependence with the non-human.

    Addressing the critical gap between materialism and spirituality in modernist American poetry, The Zen of Ecopoetics promotes new forms of awareness and understanding about our relationship with non-human beings and environments. It will be of interest to scholars, researchers, and students in ecocriticism, literary theory, poetry, and religious studies.

    1. Zen and the ecopoetic imagination

    2. Zen resonances in ecocriticism

    3. Zen-inflected language and imagination in William Carlos Williams’s Paterson and Spring and All

    4. The Tao of the non-human: ineffability, agentic assemblages, and ecosemiotics in Marianne Moore’s poetics

    5. The alchemy of imagination and material reality: nothingness, impermanence, and vital materialism in Wallace Stevens’s poetry

    6. Zen subversion and planetary entanglement in E. E. Cummings’s poetic experimentation

    7. The ineffable in modernist American cosmopoetics


    Enaiê Mairê Azambuja is Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She completed her PhD in English Literature at the University of Surrey, U.K. Her research and teaching focus on modernist literature and poetry, ecocriticism, ecopoetics, and interdisciplinary studies in literature, philosophy, and religion.

    'Enaiê Mairê Azambuja’s The Zen of Ecopoetics: Cosmological Imaginations in Modernist American Poetry considers the influence of Zen Buddhism and Taoism on the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens and E.E. Cummings. Azambuja’s insight into the early-twentieth-century Western reception of Asian religion, combined with her readings of modernist poetry, new materialism, and ecopoetic theory, provides a lucid sense of connection among religious, poetic, and theoretical discourses. Azambuja shows how these discourses can engage with each other in productive and mutually-informative ways. The Zen of Ecopoetics presents a subtle, nuanced and original approach that is set to contribute greatly to modernist and ecocritical studies.'

    Peter Jaeger, Emeritus Professor and author of ‘John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoetics’ (2013).


    'Enaiê Mairê Azambuja’s adventurous study The Zen of Ecopoetics: Cosmological Imaginations in Modernist American Poetry presents readers with the North-West passage between the Buddhist philosophical embrace of "nothingness" and the revolutionary poetics in which there are "no ideas but in things". The chapters of this rich study show us that the Beat and San Francisco Renaissance writings did not pull themselves by their socks out of nothingness—they are part of a lineage of thought that includes the unselfing imaginings William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, E. E. Cummings, and many others. This book locates the ancestors of new materialism and contemporary eco-theory in ways that strongly challenge the notion that these modernist masters were secular materialists.'

    John Whalen-Bridge, Associate Professor of English at the National University of Singapore.


    'Azambuja weaves a rich tapestry of Zen philosophy, American modernist poetry, and the concept of cosmopoetics, uncovering the hidden threads that connect the practise and philosophy of Zen to its transformative environmental resonance in our own time. By skilfully juxtaposing Zen and Western philosophy, this book powerfully reveals their shared creative impulses and daring leaps into the realms of the ineffable and the unknown. The Zen of Ecopoetics is an intellectual tour de force that enlightens and inspires us to rethink our understanding of reality, spirituality, and our attachment to poetic form.'

    Allan Kilner-Johnson, Associate Professor in English Literature at the University of Surrey, UK.