Joanna Pocock turned her attention to essay writing in 2014 while living in Missoula, Montana. Being in the American West, Pocock felt closer to the elemental, to the devastating wildfires and to the effects of mining and extraction on the landscape. Moved to document the environmental changes around her, she sought out rewilders, river reclaimers, ecosexuals, nomads and scavengers – people with a more balanced, and in some cases more extreme, relationship to the Earth.
This resulted in Surrender, a work of creative non-fiction, blending memoir with reportage and criticism with nature writing, which won the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize in 2018 before being published in the UK in 2019.
“Pocock is ever conscious of the things we drag with us as we go seeking; the things that ride in on our backs. And she doesn’t shy away from the reckoning that is the consequence of looking closely at a world in the process of dying (or being destroyed). Because the closer attention we pay, the more we are invested in the catastrophe. Pocock is attentive to the scale of the devastation, of the wildfires that spare nothing, not even the fish, whom we might have thought safe in the water; the fish suffocate from the ash from the fires. Pocock shows us there is nothing left of the wilderness in the mythological, Thoreauvian sense. The anthropocene leaves nothing untouched” – Irish Times