ecopoetics

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. 

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.

Existence plus alphabets

'Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way' and 'Participant'

How do poets make sense of landscape? Sense as in meaning, but also as in sensation, the lived experience of engaging with a particular tract of land at a particular time (day, season/weather, human dateline)? The two books here, based on living around and walking through 46.7325ºN, 117.1717º: The Confluence, South Fork Palouse River and Paradise Creek, Pullman, WA, USA, are exemplary, in freshness, thoughtfulness, and depth of engagement. 

Think in stitches. Think in settlements. Think in willows. — Gertrude Stein[1]

How do poets make sense of landscape? Sense as in meaning, but also as in sensation, the lived experience of engaging with a particular tract of land at a particular time (day, season/weather, human dateline)? The two books here, based on living around and walking through 46.7325ºN, 117.1717º: The Confluence, South Fork Palouse River and Paradise Creek, Pullman, WA, USA, are exemplary, in freshness, thoughtfulness, and depth of engagement. 

Shared dendrochronologies: Andrew Schelling on poetry, translation, & the aliveness of wor(l)ds

Giant sequoia cross-section, Arizona State Museum | University of Arizona
Giant sequoia cross-section, Arizona State Museum | University of Arizona

 A few summers ago, I took a walk one evening to find a California redwood 5,600 miles from home. Sequoia sempervirens, the sign said, Latin for ever green or everlasting, which is to say such trees are both non-deciduous and among the oldest living things on Earth. Located in the Jardin des Prébendes, a few blocks from the French city center of Tours, this particular sequoia was a mere 150 years old, but had I seen it towering somewhere north along my own Pacific coast, it couldn't have been more wondrous.

A note on terrapoetics

Eugene Thacker's 'In the Dust of this Planet' (2011), Evelyn Reilly’s 'Apocalypso' (2012), and Juliana Spahr’s 'Well Then There Now' (2011).

 There appears to be an anaesthetic edge to the conceptual, as the concept’s generality implies an inactuality that thwarts the presence presupposed by the here-and-now of aesthetic experience. Conversely, things that exist but cannot be encountered are nothing but pure concepts to us. As the concept of an ecosystem, for example, is not exemplified by anything you may encounter wandering through it, it escapes our aesthetic faculties entirely.

There appears to be an anaesthetic edge to the conceptual, as the concept’s generality implies an inactuality that thwarts the presence presupposed by the here-and-now of aesthetic experience. Conversely, things that exist but cannot be encountered are nothing but pure concepts to us. As the concept of an ecosystem, for example, is not exemplified by anything you may encounter wandering through it, it escapes our aesthetic faculties entirely.

'Swims'

Body, ritual, and erasure

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, 'swims,' 2014. All images by Nick Burnett.

My current writing project, swims, exemplifies a kind of Conceptual writing that employs ritual and bodily practice to explore environmental activism. A long poem documenting wild swims across the UK, it starts and ends in Devon, my home county, taking in rivers through Somerset, Surrey, London, Kent, Herefordshire, and the Lake District. Each swim is conceived of as environmental action, which questions how (or whether) individuals can effect environmental change, while also foregrounding the importance of pleasure, leisure, and optimism in the undertaking.

Of the relational local (1 of 2)

A resurgent ecopoetics post-conference ‘plenary’

In “Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache,” Juliana Spahr offers a narrative of the displacement of human imagination defined by creaturely and vegetal affiliation and transelemental immersion in the natural world. Lists of nonhuman species imply an abundant, connective world, and these same are beseeched not to “add to heartache,” prior to their replacement by chemical-industrial products later in the poem.  “We come into the world / and there it is” – the poem’s opening lines prompt.

a.rawlings: Ecopoetic intersubjectivity

a.rawlings at Swartifoss, Iceland.

In a recent essay, “Learning the Grammar of Animacy,” Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist who is a member of the Potawatomi tribe (one of the Ojibwe or Anishinaabe peoples of North America), recounts being stunned when she learned of the word puhpowee from an ethnobotanical study on traditional Anishinaabe uses of fungi.

"Exquisitely marginal, folded into place, and revelatory"

Introductory note to a resurgent ecopoetics post-conference ‘Plenary’

“The feral lives among us almost as if it belongs” (331), writes ecocritic Anne Milne in the course of arguing for the value of a feral bioregionalism.

Bioregional (poetics) as body-regional (poetics)

A network of inhabitory gestures

I’m thinking about the ways poets embed themselves within and ply their awareness to particular locales, and I’m thinking more specifically of how such an embodied poetics is enacted as a healing gesture - and how these gestures connect to form a kind of bioregion, one defined by responsive organisms. It’s no wonder they are appearing often of late – it’s been almost a year to the day that we read reports of a newly-discovered crack in the West Antarctica ice sheet that threatened larger destabilization of surrounding areas, and read that a rise in sea level by 10 feet or more was deemed "unavoidable."

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