ecopoetics

"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.

Oil spills, oil spill poems, & ecopoetic firsts

Kayaks and canoes

Oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, May 2015. Photo by Michelle Detorie

Several of the poems in Gary Snyder’s The Back Country (1967) were written in an oil tanker, one of his methods of transpacific travel as he was writing poems melding Far Eastern philosophies to his native Pacific Northwest realities in the late 1950s.

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."

'Surroundings answer questions'

Experimental pastoralisms in O’Brien and Taggart

At the beginning of William Empson’s 1935 landmark study Some Versions of Pastoral, he declares: “It is hard for an Englishman to talk definitely about proletarian art, because in England it has never been a genre with settled principles, and such as there is of it, that I have seen, is bad … my suspicion, as I shall try to make clear, is that it is liable to a false limitation.”[1] Three things are interesting to me in this passage: first, that the pastoral is suggested as an historically unsettled term, a term potential of contingency and resistance; second, that the pastoral is identified as, or can be seen to have evolved into a proletarian literature, or vice versa — “I think good proletarian art is usually Covert Pastoral,” says Empson (6) — and third, that this evolution is prone to a “false limit” that can be used well or poorly.

QED II, part three: Not (quite) easily done

The third Q.E.D. II event of 2013 featured one of Les Figues’s earliest authors, Jennifer Calkins, in conversation with Amanda Ackerman and Anne de Marcken. Teresa Carmody, the press’s cofounder, moderated.

Beyond eco-slave names: gibb(ev(er)y(where(aware

A conservation with a rawlings

a.rawlings: from Gibberland
a.rawlings: image from 'Gibberland'

“Does [writing] need to be an act composed by a human entity?” a rawlings asks in her online multidisciplinary work, Gibber

This naturally leads to questions about reading: What can we read? How can we read? She writes, that “Gibber hinges on exploring notions that humans read their environments and/or that humans are in conversation with landscapes and the inhabiting non-human species.”

'grasses' meet 'monster owl': On the UC Davis Satellite Event with Jonathan Skinner and Brian Teare

by Gillian Osborne

Yarrow seed
Yarrow seed, www.fromoldbooks.org

In the UC Davis Arboretum, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a “companion” plant, has many uses and many names. Along a sculpted river topped with scum, warblers disappear and reappear in native and non-native shrubs and branches. Brian Teare and Jonathan Skinner are talking about ecopoetics: the poems of Ofelia Zepeda, “emergency,” and Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. We stop to smell the sages and the yellow puffs of acacia.

The 2013 Conference on Ecopoetics began at a satellite event hosted by the Davis Humanities Center. Jonathan Skinner, editor of the journal ecopoetics, and author of among other books, Warblers, published by Brian Teare's micro-press Albion Books, sat at a table with his publisher and fellow-poet, whose most recent collection, Companion Grasses, will appear in print April 1. A selection of this same volume, “Transcendental Grammar Crown,” can also be found in the newly released Arcadia Project, edited by Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep.

Magazines #8

overland 204

overland 204 cover
overland 204 cover

My favourite poem from Jill Jones's recent Dark Bright Doors (Wakefield 2010) was the uncharacteristically (relatively) aggressive 'Leaving it to the Sky', which included memorable lines like 'I'm having a yak with a piece of paper'. It showed another side to the generally more philosophical - if problematising - poet. A new poem 'Misinterpretations/ or the Dark Grey Outline' in overland 204 continues to work this mode.

Conceptualizing the field

Some compass points for ecopoetics

The ecopoetics compass rose
Compass Points

In thinking about how to conceptualize ecopoetics, one scheme I have played with groups the field into eight vectors of attention, or “compass points.” (I was inspired by Robert Smithson’s “boxing the compass” of his Spiral Jetty: “South by West: mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. Southwest by South: mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. Southwest by West: mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. West by South: mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. West: mud, salt crystals, rocks, water,” etc. ) I array these ecopoetics compass points in relation to a kind of spatiotemporal mappemunde that is more conceptual than geographical. The trope of westward movement—a fiction that has guided much of Western history—provisionally organizes the temporal frame, while the trope of economic North and South, another partial fiction used to sort geopolitical realities, organizes the spatial frame.

While sound marks the “true North” of the ecopoetics compass, Northeast and East point to conceptual and procedural writing and to documentary and research poetics, respectively: modes of writing keyed explicitly to the past. Conceptual and procedural writing occupy the Northeast front out of their instructive orientation to European modernism (more explicitly than any orientation to more recent developments in poetics around the globe), while documentary and research-based practices work directly with history, and/or what has been documented, as their primary material.

Nesting

Looking up from 'sparrow,' with Dan Beachy-Quick

swallow's nest (with an egg that did not hatch) in nesting box
Swallow's Nest

While I said I would write about nomadic poetry architectures, I got caught up reading some books I need to return to the library. One of them is Dan Beachy-Quick’s  This Nest, Swift Passerine, a book-length meditation on love, sparrows, sight, orb spiders, language, self and other, in the transcendentalist tradition Beachy-Quick has made so particularly his own. It is also a thorough demonstration of poetic intertextuality as nesting. (In his previous collection, Mulberry, Beachy-Quick imagines writing poetry as a silkworm’s work, “the weaving back and forth, as the head moves almost unnoticeably left to right and right to left as one reads, of those leaves I had devoured, those pages I read.”) Into his own looping syntax, the poet weaves “Themes” from Charles C. Abbott, Martin Buber, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Meister Eckhart, Ronald Johnson, Edward Taylor, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Wordsworth, amongst others.

Each blank page a month 
Arctic this every January
The sparrows minus zero
In the leafless tree do not 

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