In the foreword to the poetry anthology Fire in the Pasture, poet and BYU English professor Susan Elizabeth Howe explains that a poet’s desire is “to make readers see what they did not see before, to offer insight, to create empathy, to provoke thought, or to express beauty, soundness, depth” (xvii). Editor Tyler Chadwick, a poet and doctoral candidate in English at Idaho State University, has gathered into one substantial volume the work of eighty-two contemporary Mormon poets, and the majority succeed in conjuring the emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic rewards Howe describes.
This anthology is the first major collection of poetry by LDS writers since Eugene England and Dennis Clark’s Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems, published by Signature Books in 1989. In the over two decades since Harvest’s publication, a cadre of talented Mormon poets have published a growing body of excellent work. Poets Lance Larson, Neil Aitken, and Timothy Liu are among many poets in the anthology who have garnered substantial attention in the wider literary world. Fire in the Pasture also includes the work of many up-and-coming new poets, as well as writers who are best known in Mormon literary circles.
Although the readership of poetry anthologies is not large, it is encouraging that Fire in the Pasture collects and preserves many of Mormonism’s most potent poetic voices from the early twenty-first century, making them available for generations to come. This volume would also be a quality addition to any literature class, Mormon or otherwise, especially at LDS schools. Although not all the poems in the anthology have overtly Mormon elements, many address ideas and issues at the core of our theology and culture. For those who erroneously believe that LDS poetry is primarily comprised of sentimental rhymed verses or charming couplets, this anthology is proof that the complexity and beauty of Mormon life can, and should, be rendered in powerful, sophisticated poetic expression.