ecopoetics

Too much information

My chemical and microbial romance

Cover Image for Anatomic
‘Anatomic’: Cover Image

Anatomic is an attempt to think of writing in a more expanded way by incorporating the results of chemical and microbial testing on my body into poems that examine, through personal, biological, industrial, and cultural contexts, how the “outside” writes the “inside” in necessary and toxic ways. I offer my experiences working on this book as one perspective on some of the aesthetic, procedural, and formal concerns associated with this series of commentaries on metabolic poetics.

Metabolic pathways

Poetry and permeability

Test tube filled with blood
A sample of my blood. Photo credit: Jimmy Limit.

Oil is a form of writing. I know this because I can read it in my blood, urine, and shit. As part of research for a recent book, I tested myself for a wide range of chemicals. I also had my microbiome sequenced. I found petrochemical pollution in my blood and urine in the form of pesticides, flame retardants, phthalates, and more. I discovered evidence in my gut of shifted microbial communities associated with aspects of the Western diet. I wrote about what I found in a book called Anatomic, which I will discuss in more detail in the next post.

New writing through the Anthropocene

PennSound podcast #63: Allison Cobb and Brian Teare with Julia Bloch, Knar Gavin, and Aylin Malcolm

Book covers for Brian Teare's Doomstead Days and Allison Cobb's Green-Wood.

Allison Cobb and Brian Teare joined Julia Bloch, Knar Gavin, and Aylin Malcolm in the Wexler Studio on April 2, 2019, following their lunchtime discussion with scholars and poets from Penn’s Poetry and Poetics and Anthropocene and Animal Studies reading groups. Our discussion ranged from human embeddedness in the nonhuman world to the role of affect in poetry that seeks to reckon with ever intensifying ecodisasters.

Glimpsing the new normal

On Kristen Gallagher’s ‘85% True/Minor Ecologies’

Writing that tends to take an anthropocentric consideration of the physical world — e.g., a traditional nature writing that privileges human observation — implies a certain hierarchical separation between subject and material. It is the same assumption that leads to the glaring dismissal of other actants, especially those considered to be alien (i.e., not human). When the fantasy of privileged human experience is dissolved, there is an equitable condition, where people and their environments are slipped, or perhaps coerced, into substance.

Slowing the rate of perception (PoemTalk #134)

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, 'Hello, the Roses'

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Al Filreis was joined for this episode of PoemTalk by Evelyn Reilly, Joshua Schuster, and James Sherry to discuss the title poem of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s book Hello, the Roses (New Directions, 2013; 58–62). Berssenbrugge’s PennSound page includes two recordings of her performance of this poem. The recording we played before our discussion is from a reading given at Dominique Levy Gallery in New York in March of 2016.

Three pebbles

Or, the minimal materialisms of late modernism

Photo by Sandro Arcais, via Wikimedia Commons.

What is a pebble? Is it an object or a thing? A weapon or a tool? Is it naïve or is it sentimental? Is it a token of the real, or a fragment of ideology? Can you do more than skip it or hurl it or mark a grave with it? What is the pebble to poetry? Of what might the poem make it speak?

On the central tensions of being

An interview between Christy Davids and Allison Cobb

Photo of Allison Cobb (left) by Kerry Davis.

Note: Allison Cobb is the author of four books, most recently After We All Died, which was published by Ahsahta in late 2016. Her poetry is invested in locating the self in the landscape of the world, and does so with an eye toward ecology and an ear toward music. Her work incorporates research, considers historical and scientific contexts, and regularly plays with the boundaries of poetry and essay. 

Menacing archives

A review of Jennifer Scappettone's 'The Republic of Exit 43'

Trucks dump garbage at Fresh Kills Landfill, May 1973. Photo by Chester Higgins with the EPA, via Wikimedia Commons.

What kind of archive is the landfill? How do disposable technologies haunt — or annul — the imaginaries of urban ecologies? Landfills and wastelands often preserve more than personal and communal memories: narratives of city development, domestic and global economies, cultural infrastructures, and processes that underpin technological innovations. 

What kind of archive is the landfill? How do disposable technologies haunt — or annul — the imaginaries of urban ecologies? Landfills and wastelands often preserve more than personal and communal memories: narratives of city development, domestic and global economies, cultural infrastructures, and processes that underpin technological innovations.

The shape of the vigil

Cassandra Cleghorn's 'Four Weathercocks'

Photo by Kevin Bubriski.

The shapes in “Macondo,” which open the first section of Cassandra Cleghorn’s first collection Four Weathercocks, are obscure and drenched in oil. As they wash onto shore “flayed and stifled,”[1] they are pushed and pulled by the tide, but never named. We are given wings, feathers, pouches, and “a black eye bright in a face of black sheen,” but never the species. Even their heartbeat goes undefined, appearing as a “small throb” pinned to the speaker’s lap. Meanwhile, “lost farmers” spread straw along the shoreline, trying to soak up the oil.

I 0we v. I/O

Poetics of veil-piercing on a corporate planet

Pop-up pastoral from Jennifer Scappettone, ‘The Republic of Exit 43: Outtakes and Scores from an Archaeology and Pop-Up Opera of the Corporate Dump’ (Berkeley: Atelos, 2016), 94.

Ten years into tortuous research surrounding a modest seventy-three-acre plot of toxins sitting quiet some hundred feet from the house where I grew up, diffuse obsessive e-digging struck metal hydroxide sludge. In the wilds of Justia.com, suddenly clear-cut by my more sophisticated search strings or their more precisely targeted algorithms, I came upon a document titled “Town of Oyster Bay v. Occidental Chemical Corp., 987 F. Supp. 182 (E.D.N.Y. 1997).” 

Ten years into tortuous research surrounding a modest seventy-three-acre plot of toxins sitting quiet some hundred feet from the house where I grew up, diffuse obsessive e-digging struck metal hydroxide sludge. In the wilds of Justia.com, suddenly clear-cut by my more sophisticated search strings or their more precisely targeted algorithms, I came upon a document titled “Town of Oyster Bay v. Occidental Chemical Corp., 987 F. Supp. 182 (E.D.N.Y.

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