Steve Ely’s The European Eel is a long poem that imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish of the poem’s title. Based on Ely’s in-depth engagement with the scientific literature, discussions with leading eel researchers and conservationists, and hands-on experience with the eel in river systems across the country and abroad, The European Eel is unique not only in its sustained birth-to-death focus on the eel, but in the vivid way the eel’s riverine and marine habitats are evoked and articulated—and in its portrayal of the daunting array of anthropogenic threats that are currently threatening this once common species with extinction. Although a poem first and foremost—an Expressionistic epic monology that transforms its natural history into a quasi-gnostic affirmation of the persistence of life in the context of the Anthropocene and the Sixth Extinction—the poem’s rootedness in research also enables it to function as a credible piece of informed nature writing capable of shaping ecological debate. Seventeen pages of illustrations by the award-winning artist P.R. Ruby complement and interpret the text, and detailed notes provide context that further opens up the astonishing world of the European eel.
A beautifully produced 80-page hardback, The European Eel is available now from Longbarrow Press. You can read an extract from the book here. Click here to read ‘Body of Dark’, a reflective essay on the development of The European Eel.
Steve Ely’s poetry publications include Oswald’s Book of Hours (Smokestack, 2013), Englaland (Smokestack, 2015), Incendium Amoris (Smokestack, 2017), Bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God (The High Window Press, 2018), Jubilate Messi (Shearsman, 2018), Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah (Wild West Press, 2018) and Lectio Violant (Shearsman, 2021). He has also published a novel, Ratmen (Blackheath Books, 2012), and a biographical work, Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield.